Paul Had Now Finished His Exhibition Of The Plan Of Salvation. He Had Shown That We Are Justified Gratuitously, That Is, By Faith In Jesus Christ, Without The Works Of The Law. He Had Proved That, So Far From This Freedom From The Law Leading To The Indulgence Of Sin, It Is Necessary To Our Sanctification, Because The Law Is As Inadequate To The Production Of Holiness In The Sinner, As It Is To Secure Pardon Or Acceptance With God. That Such Is The Insufficiency Of The Law, He Proved By Exhibiting Its Operation Both On The Renewed And Unrenewed Mind. Having Accomplished All This, He Leaves, In The Chapter Before Us, The Field Of Logical Argument, And Enters On The New And More Elevated Sphere Of Joyous Exultation. As, However, There Is Always Warmth Of Feeling In The Apostle's Argument, So Also Is There Generally Logical Arrangement In His Highest Triumphs.
His Theme Here Is The Security Of Believers. The Salvation Of Those Who Have Renounced The Law, And Accepted The Gracious Offers Of The Gospel, Is Grown To Be Absolutely Certain. The Whole Chapter Is A Series Of Arguments, Most Beautifully Arranged, In Support Of This One Point. They Are All Traced Back To The Great Source Of Hope And Security, The Unmerited And Unchanging Love Of God In Christ Jesus. The Proposition Is Contained In The First Verse. There Is No Condemnation To Those Who Are In Christ Jesus: They Shall Never Be Condemned Or Perish.
1. Because They Are Delivered From The Law; All Its Demands Being Fulfilled In Them By The Mission And Sacrifice Of Christ, Verses 1-4.
2. Because Their Salvation Is Actually Begun In The Regeneration And Sanctification Of Their Hearts By The Holy Spirit. Those Who Have The Spirit Of Christ Have The Spirit Of Life, Verses 5-11.
3. Not Only Is Their Salvation Begun, But They Are The Children Of God, And If Children, They Are Heirs, Verses 12-17.
4. The Afflictions Which They May Be Called To Endure, Are Not Inconsistent With This Filial Relation To God, Because They Are Utterly Insignificant In Comparison With The Glory That Shall Be Revealed In Them; And Under These Afflictions They Are Sustained Both By Hope And The Intercessions Of The Holy Spirit, Verses 18-28.
5. Because They Are Predestinated To The Attainment Of Eternal Life; Of Which Predestination Their Present Sanctification Or Effectual Calling Is The Result, And Therefore The Evidence, Verses 28-30.
6. Because God Has Given His Son To Die For Them, And Thereby To Secure Their Justification And Salvation, Verses 31-34.
7. Because The Love Of God Is Infinite And Unchangeable; From Which Nothing Can Separate Us, Verses 35-39. Thus, From The Proximate Cause Of Salvation, Or The Indwelling Of The Spirit, Does The Apostle Rise With Ever-Increasing Confidence, To The Great Source And Fountain Of All, In The Love Of God.
Although, according to this view of the chapter, it is one whole, it may, for the sake of convenience, be divided into three sections.
This section contains the development of the first two of the apostle's arguments in favor of the position, that those who are in Christ Jesus shall never be condemned. The immediate reason is assigned in the second verse—they are delivered from the law. For, in view of the insufficiency of the law, God sent forth his Son as a sacrifice for sin, ver. 3; and thus secured the justification of all believers, ver. 4. Being thus delivered from the law, they walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and this possession of the Spirit is incipient salvation; because the carnal mind, which, of course, all who are in the flesh possess, is death; whereas a mind under the government of the Spirit is life and peace. Such is the very nature of the case. Holiness is salvation, verses 5-7. The reason that death is the necessary consequence of being carnally minded, is the essential opposition between such a state of mind and God. Hence, those who have this state of mind are the objects of the Divine displeasure, vers. 7, 8. As, however, believers are not under the government of the flesh, but of the Spirit, their salvation is secured, even to the resurrection of the body. For if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell in them, he shall also quicken their mortal bodies, vers. 9-11.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
VERSE 1. There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. It is a matter of considerable importance to the understanding of this chapter, to decide what is its precise relation to the preceding part of the epistle. The word therefore indicates that what follows is an inference; but from what? From the conclusion of the seventh chapter, or from the whole previous discussion? The latter seems to be the only correct view of the context; because the fact that there is no condemnation to believers, is no fair inference from what is said at the close of the preceding chapter. Paul does not mean to say, as Luther and others explain ver. 1, that there is nothing worthy of condemnation in the Christian, because with his mind he serves the law of God. Nor does he mean, at least in the first few verses, to argue that believers shall not he condemned, because they are freed from the dominion of sin. But the inference, in the first verse, is the legitimate conclusion of all that Paul had previously established. Believers shall be saved, because they are not under the law, but under grace, which is the main point in all that Paul has yet said. There is, therefore, now, i.e. under these circumstances, viz., the circumstances set forth in the previous part of the epistle. The decision of the question as to the connective depends on the view taken of the apostle's argument. If he argues that believers are not liable to condemnation, because with the mind they serve the law of God, then the connection is with what immediately precedes. But if his argument is, that those in Christ are not exposed to condemnation, notwithstanding, their imperfect sanctification, because Christ has died as a sacrifice for their sins, then the connection is with the main argument of the epistle. Since men, being sinners, cannot be justified by works; since by the obedience of one man, Jesus Christ, the many are made righteous; and since through him, and not through the law, deliverance from the subjective power of sin is effected, therefore it follows that there is no condemnation to those who are in him.
There is no condemnation, οὐδὲν κατάκριμα, does not mean nihil damnatione dignum (nothing worthy of condemnation,) as Erasmus and many others render it, but there is no condemnation. Those who are in Christ are not exposed to condemnation. And this again is not to be understood as descriptive of their present state merely, but of their permanent position. They are placed beyond the reach of condemnation. They shall never be condemned. The meaning of a proposition is often best understood by the arguments by which it is sustained. It is so in this case. The whole chapter is a proof of the safety of believers, of their security not only from present condemnation, but from future perdition. Nothing shall ever separate them from the love of God, is the triumphant conclusion to which the apostle arrives. Those to whom there is and never can be any condemnation, are described, first as to their relation to Christ, and secondly as to their character. The first assigns the reason of their security, the second enables us to determine to whom that security belongs. First, they are in Christ. In what sense? This must be determined, not so much from the force of the words, as from the teachings of Scripture.
2. They are in him vitally, as the branch is in the vine, John 15:1-7; or, as the head and members of the body are in vital union, 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:23. This union arises from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, 1 Corinthians 12:13; 6:15, 19.
3. They are in him by faith, Ephesians 3:17; Galatians 3:26, 27. It is not in virtue of any one of these bonds of union exclusively, but in virtue of them all (so far as adults are concerned,) that there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.
It follows from the nature of this union, that it must transform the character of those who are its subjects. If, therefore, any man is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature, 2 Corinthians 5:17; John 15:4; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 2:6; 1 John 2:5; 3:6. As the union includes the bodies of believers, as well as their souls, 1 Corinthians 6:15-19, so this transforming power will ultimately extend to the former as well as to the latter, Romans 8:10, 11. In this verse, (according to the common text,) the transforming power of this union with Christ is expressed by saying, that those who are in him, walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
To walk means to regulate the inward and outward life. It includes, therefore, the determination of the judgments, the feelings, the purposes, as well as the external conduct. The controlling principle in believers is not the flesh, i.e. the corrupt nature, but the Holy Spirit who dwells in them, as the source of knowledge, of holiness, of strength, of peace and love. They are not σαρκικοί governed by the σάρξ, but πνευματικοί governed by the Spirit. The only evidence therefore to ourselves, or to others, of our being in Christ, is this subjection of the whole life to the control of his Spirit, so that we discern and believe the truth, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16, and are governed by it. When the word πνεῦμα is not only without the article, but opposed to σάρξ, it may be understood of the Spirit as the principle of life in the believer, and in that view be equivalent to the new man, or the renewed principle. This is the view adopted by many as the meaning of the word in this passage. This clause, however, is of doubtful authority. It occurs in ver. 4, and may by a transcriber have been transferred to this place. The whole clause is omitted in the majority of the uncial MSS., and by the great body of modern critics. The latter clause only is omitted in the MSS. A. D. in the Vulgate, and by Chrysostom, which reading is adopted by Bengel.
VERSE 2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, etc. This verse assigns the reason why there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, as is evident from the use of for, with which the verse commences.
The law of the Spirit is here opposed to the law of sin and death, mentioned in the other clause of the verse. The interpretation of the one phrase, therefore, must decide that of the other. There are three different views which may be taken of the verse.
1. The word law may be used here, as it is in the vers. 21, 23, of chap. 7., for a directing power; and Spirit, by metonymy, for that which the Spirit produces, i.e. sanctified affections; and the words of life may mean, producing life. The sense would then be, 'The power of the renewed principle which tends to life, has delivered me from the power of sin which tends to death.' In other words, 'The law of the mind has delivered me from the law of sin which is in the members.' So Beza and many others.
2. The word law is taken in nearly the same sense; but Spirit of life is understood to mean the Holy Spirit, considered as the author of life. The sense then is, 'The power of the life-giving Spirit has delivered me from the dominion of the law of sin and death in my members.' So Calvin, and others:
"Legem Spiritus improprie vocat Dei Spiritum, qui animas nostras Christi sanguine aspergit, non. tantum ut a peccati labe emundet quoad reatum; sed in veram puritatem sanctificet." The objection to this interpretation, that it seems to refer our freedom from condemnation to our regeneration, he proposes to meet by saying that Paul does not state the cause, but the method of our deliverance from guilt: "Negat Paulus externa legis doctrina id nos consequi, sed dum Spiritu Dei renovamur, simul etiam justificari gratuita venia, ne peccati maledictio in nos amplius recumbat. Perinde ergo valet haec sententia acsi dixisset Paultus, regenerationis gratiam ab imputatione justitiae nunquam disjungi."
3. According to the third view, the law of the Spirit of life is the gospel, i.e. the law of which the life-giving Spirit is the author. Of course, the other member of the verse, instead of describing the corrupt principle in men, means the law of God, which, as Paul had taught in chap. 7., is incidentally the cause of sin and death. The sense of the passage then is, 'The gospel has delivered me from the law.' So Witsius, etc.
This last seems decidedly to be preferred, for the following reasons:
1. Although the two former interpretations are consistent with Paul's use of the word law, neither of them so well suits the context, because neither assigns the reason why believers are not exposed to condemnation. Paul asserts that those who are in Christ are restored to the divine favor. Why? Because they are sanctified? No; but because they have been freed from the law and its demands, and introduced into a state of grace.
2. It is not true that believers are delivered from the law of sin in their members. If the terms law of the Spirit, and law of sin, are to be understood of the good and evil principle in the Christian, how can it be said that by the former he is, in this life, delivered from the latter? This would be in direct contradiction to chap. 7 and to experience.
3. The terms here used may naturally be so understood, because the word law, in its general sense, as rule, is applicable and is applied to the gospel, Romans 3:27, especially when standing in antithesis to the law of works. The gospel is called the law of the Spirit, because he is its author: see the phrase "ministration of the Spirit," 2 Corinthians 3:8. In the other member of the verse the law is called the law of sin and death, because productive of sin and death. This is no more than what Paul had said expressly of the law in the preceding chapter, vers. 5, 13, etc. And in 2 Corinthians 3:6, the law is said to kill: it is called the διακονία τοῦ θανάτου, (the ministration of death,) and the διακονία τῆς κατακρίσεως (ministration of condemnation.) There the same contrast between the διακονία τοῦ θανάτου and the διακονία τοῦ πνεύματος is presented, as here between the νόμος τοῦ θανάτου and the νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος.
4. This interpretation alone assigns an adequate ground for the declaration of the preceding verse. That declaration, the result of all that Paul had yet proved, is that believers, and believers only, are perfectly safe; and the reason assigned is the sum of all the argument from the commencement of the epistle. They are not under the law, but under grace; the law of the Spirit has freed them from the old law of works.
5. The next verse favors, if it does not absolutely demand, this interpretation. It gives the reason why believers are thus freed from the law, viz. it was insufficient for their salvation, "it was weak through the flesh."
6. The use of the aorist ἠλευθέρωσε, which shows that the freedom spoken of is an accomplished fact, confirms this interpretation. Deliverance from the law of sin in the members is a gradual process; deliverance from the law is effected once for all; and with regard to the believer, it is a fact accomplished.
The words ἐν Χριστῷ, in Christ, may be connected with the immediately preceding words τῆς ζωῆς, the life which is in Christ; or with ὁ νόμος κ.τ.λ., the law of the spirit which is in Christ. As, however, the connecting article (τῆς or ὁ), which is necessary at least definitely to indicate either of those constructions, is wanting, the words in question are generally connected with the following verb, ἡλευθέρωσε, in Christ freed me; that is, it was in him, and therefore through him, that this deliverance was effected. The meaning of this verse, therefore, in connection with the preceding, is, 'There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, because they have been freed in him by the gospel of the life-giving Spirit, from that law which, although good in itself, is, through our corruption, the source of sin and death.' Being thus free from the curse of the law, and from the obligation to fulfill its demands, as the condition of life, and consequently freed from a legal spirit, their sins are gratuitously pardoned for Christ's sake; they are made partakers of the Spirit of God, are transformed more and more into his image, and God is pledged to preserve them unto eternal life.
VERSE 3. This verse is connected with the preceding by the particle γάρ, for. 'We are delivered from the law, for the law could not effect our salvation.' The words τὸ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου may be rendered either, the impotency of the law, or what is impossible to the law. The choice between these renderings depends on the grammatical structure of the passage. First, τὸ ἀδύνατον may be taken as the accusative, and the preposition διά be supplied, on account of the impotency of the law; or, secondly, it may be taken as the accusative absolute, as to the impotency of the law, i.e. in view of its impotency; or, thirdly, it may be taken as the nominative, and in apposition with the following clause. The sense would then be, 'The impossibility of the law—God condemned sin:' i.e. the condemnation of sin is what is impossible to the law. This is the view commonly adopted, especially by those who understand the apostle to be speaking of sanctification, and who therefore take condemned sin to mean destroyed sin. As, however, that clause does not mean to destroy sin, but judicially to condemn it, the first clause cannot strictly be in apposition with it. The law could condemn sin. What it cannot do is to free us either from its guilt or power. It can neither justify nor sanctify. On this account, the second exposition of the first clause of the verse just mentioned, is to be preferred: 'In view of the impotency of the law, God sent his Son,' etc. This insufficiency of the law, as the apostle had taught in the preceding chapters, is not due to any imperfection of the law itself. It is holy, just, and good. It requires nothing more than is right. If men could comply with its righteous demands, the law would pronounce them just. If they were free from the infection of sin, "the form of truth and knowledge in the law," the perfect exhibition which it makes of the will of God, would avail to maintain and advance them in holiness. But as they are already under sin, under its guilt and power, the law is entirely impotent to their justification or sanctification. The apostle therefore says, that the law is impotent, ἐν ῷ, because that (see Hebrews 2:18) it is weak through the flesh, διὰ τῆς σαρκός, i.e. through our corruption. It is our being depraved that renders the law weak, or impotent to save. God sending (or having sent πέμψας) his own Son, τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱόν. The term Son here evidently designates the eternal personal Son. He was from eternity, and in virtue of his Divine nature, and not in virtue either of his miraculous birth, or his exaltation, the Son of God. The greatness of the work to be accomplished, and the greatness of the love of God impelling him to our redemption, are strongly exhibited in these words. It was not a creature, even the most exalted, whom God sent on this mission, but his own Son, one with him in essence and glory.
Two things are further stated concerning this mission of the Son of God. First, the form under which he appeared in the world; and, secondly, the object for which he was sent. As to the form in which he appeared, it was in the likeness of sinful flesh. It was not simply ἐν σαρκί (in the flesh), clothed in our nature; for that might have been said, had he appeared in the glorious, impassive nature of Adam before the fall. Much less was it in ἐν σαρκὶ ἁμαρτίας (in sinful flesh), for that would imply that his human nature was defiled, contrary to Hebrews 4:15, and to all Scripture; but it was ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας; (in the likeness of sinful flesh), that is, in a nature like to our sinful nature, but not itself sinful. Christ took our physically dilapidated nature, subject to the infirmities which sin had brought into it. He was therefore susceptible of pain, and weariness, and sorrow. He could be touched with a sense of our infirmities. He was tempted in all points as we are. He is therefore a merciful and trustworthy High Priest. The object for which God sent his Son, clothed in this feeble, suffering nature of ours, is expressed by καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας (and for sin). This may mean either on account of sin whether for its expiation or its removal, being undetermined; or it may be understood in a sacrificial sense. Christ was sent for the expiation of sin, or as a sacrifice for sin.
1. In favor of this is the usus loquendi, as περὶ ἁμαρτίας is so often used in this sense: see Numbers 8:8; Psalm 40:7 (in the LXX. 396,) Leviticus 6:25, 30; Hebrews 10:6, 8, 18; 13:11. Thus also in Galatians 1:4, Christ is said to have given himself περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν for, i.e. as a sacrifice for, our sins.
2. The analogy of Scripture, as it is so abundantly taught in the word of God, is that Christ was sent to make explanation for sin, to wash away sin, to offer himself unto God as a sacrifice for sin. When, therefore, it is said that he was sent for sin, or gave himself for our sins, the implication is almost unavoidable that the meaning is, he was sent as a sacrifice for sin.
3. The immediate context demands this interpretation; for the effect ascribed to this sending Christ for sin, is that which is due to a sacrifice or expiation. What the law could not do, was to reconcile us unto God. It was in view of the impotency of the law to effect the salvation of sinners, that God sent his Son to make expiation for their offenses, and thus bring them back to himself.
He thus condemned sin in the flesh that is, he condemned it in the flesh, or nature, which his Son had assumed. Christ took upon himself our nature, in order to expiate the guilt of that nature. The expiation must be made in the nature which had sinned. As Christ, the apostle tells us, Hebrews 2:14-18, did not undertake the redemption of angels, he did not assume their nature, but took part in flesh and blood. That the words κατέκρινε τὴν ἁμαρτίαν (he condemned sin), does not mean that he destroyed sin, but that he punished it, visited it with the penalty of the law, is evident:
1. Because κατάκρινω never means to destroy, but always means to condemn. It is perfectly arbitrary, therefore, to depart from the ordinary meaning of the word in this particular place.
2. The sacrifice of Christ was the condemnation of sin. That is, he bore our sins. He was made a curse, in the sense that he endured the curse due to sin. His sufferings were penal, as they were judicially inflicted in satisfaction of justice. The proximate design and effect of a sacrifice is expiation, and not reformation or inward purification. When therefore the apostle speaks, as he here does, of what God did by sending his Son as a sacrifice for sin, he must be understood to speak of the sacrificial effect of his death.
3. The context requires this interpretation. The argument of the apostle is, that there is no κατάριμα (condemnation) to us, because God κατέρινε (condemned) sin in Christ. The other interpretation supposes him to say, that there is no condemnation to us, because sin is destroyed in us. That is, we are justified on the ground of our own inherent goodness or freedom from sin. But this is contrary to the Scriptures, and to the faith of the Church.
"Clare affirmat Paulus," says Calvin, "ideo expiata fuisse peccata Christi morte, quia Legi impossibile erat, justitiam nobis conferre."
The apostle, he adds, teaches,
"Legem nihil prorsus habere momenti ad conferendam justitiam. Vides ergo, nos penitus excludi ab operum justitia: ideoque ad Christi justitiam nos confugere, quia in nobis nulla esse potest. Quod scitu in primis necessarium est; quia Christi justitia nonquam vestiemur, nisi prius certo noverimus, propriae justitiae nihil nos habere."
In saying, however, that the proximate object and effect of a sacrifice is to expiate sin, and therefore that sin is thereby condemned and not destroyed, it is not forgotten that propitiation is the end of expiation; that our sins are atoned for by the blood of Christ, in order to our being restored to his image and favor. Justification is not on account of, or on the ground of sanctification, but it is in order to it and therefore the two are inseparable. The justified are always sanctified, And therefore, so far as the meaning is concerned, there is no objection to saying, that the condemnation of sin of which the apostle here speaks, includes the idea of its extirpation or destruction as a necessary consequence. But it is nevertheless important, not only to a due understanding of his argument, but also to the integrity of scriptural doctrine, to remember that the condemnation of sin in the person of Christ, expresses its expiation by his blood, and not the destruction of its power in us. It is Christ as the substitute of sinners, bearing the curse for them, that is here presented to our view. This even Olshausen admits, who says, "The conclusion of this verse expresses in the most decisive terms the vicarious (stellvertretenden) atoning death of the Savior."
VERSE 4. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, etc. This verse expresses the design of God in sending his Son, and in condemning sin in the flesh. He did thus condemn it, ἵνα, in order that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled. The meaning, therefore, of this passage is determined by the view taken of ver. 3. If that verse means, that God, by sending his Son, destroyed sin in us, then of course this verse must mean, 'He destroyed sin, in order that we should fulfill the law;" i.e. that we should be holy. But if ver. 3 is understood of the sacrificial death of Christ, and of the condemnation of sin in him as the substitute of sinners, then this verse must be understood of justification, and not of sanctification. He condemned sin, in order that the demands of the law might be satisfied. This is the view of the passage given even by the majority of the early Fathers, and by almost all evangelical interpreters, including the performers.
"Qui intelligunt Spiritu Christi renovatos legem implere, commentum a sensu Pauli penitus alienum afferunt; nique enim eo usque proficiunt fideles, quamdia peregrinantur in mundo ut justificatio legis in illis plena sit, vel integra. Ergo hoc ad veniam referre necesse est; quia, dum nobis accepta fertur Christi obedientia, legi satisfactum est, ut pro justis censeamur."
That this is the true meaning of the passage appears not only from the connection and the course of the argument, but also from the following considerations:
1. It is consistent with the strict and natural meaning of the words. The word δικαίωμα, here used, means, first, something righteous, and then, second, something declared to be righteous and obligatory, an ordinance concept; and, third, a righteous decision, a just judgment, as when in Romans 1:29, the heathen are said to know the δικαίωμα, the righteousness judgment of God; and, fourth, the act of declaring righteous, justification. In this sense δικαίωμα is antithetical to κατάκριμα. The δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου, therefore, may mean, the righteous requirement of the law, that which satisfies its demands. In strict accordance therefore with the sense of the words, we may explain the passage to mean, 'that the demands of the law might be satisfied in us.' That is, that we might be justified. Christ was condemned, that to us there might be no condemnation. He was made sin that we might be made righteousness, 2 Corinthians 5:21. Or, if we take δικαίωμα in the sense of (Rechtfertigungsurtheil) a declaration of righteousness, an act of justification, the same idea is expressed: 'Sin was condemned in Christ, in order that the sentence of justification might be fulfilled, or carried into effect in us.' This is the explanation which Eckermann, Köllner, Philippi, and other modern interpreters adopt.
2. The analogy of Scripture. To make this passage teach the doctrine of subjective justification, that we are freed from condemnation or delivered from the law by our inward sanctification, is to contradict the plain teaching of the Bible, and the whole drift and argument of this epistle.
3. The concluding clause of the verse, (who walk not after the flesh, etc.) demands the interpretation given above. In the other view of the passage, the latter clause is altogether unnecessary. Why should Paul say, that Christ died in order that they should be holy who are holy, i.e. those who walk not after the flesh? On the other hand, the second clause of the verse is specially pertinent, if the first treats of justification. The benefits of Christ's death are experienced only by those who walk not after the flesh. The gospel is not antinomian. Those only are justified who are also sanctified. Holiness is the fruit and evidence of reconciliation with God. There is no condemnation to those who walk after the Spirit; and the righteousness of the law is fulfilled by those who walk after the Spirit. In both cases, the latter clause is designed to describe the class of persons who are entitled to appropriate to themselves the promise of justification in Christ.
4. Finally, as intimated in the above quotation from Calvin, it is not true that, the righteousness of the law, in the sense of complete obedience, is fulfilled in believers. The interpretation which makes the apostle say, that we are delivered from the law by the work of Christ, in order that the complete obedience which the law demands might be rendered by us, supposes what all Scripture and experience contradicts. For an exposition of the last clause of the verse, see ver. l.
VERSE 5. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh. The immediate object of this and the following verse is to justify the necessity of limiting the blessings of Christ's death, to those who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The for, therefore, connects this verse, not with the main idea, but with the last clause of the pleading. Men must be holy, because sin is death, whereas holiness is life and peace. The necessity of spirituality, therefore lies in the very nature of things.
They who are after the flesh, those who are in the flesh, the carnal, are expressions of like import, and describe those who are governed by the flesh, or by their nature considered as corrupt. The corresponding series, they who are after the Spirit, who are in the Spirit, the spiritual describe those who are under the government of the Holy Ghost. Of the former class it is said they mind the things of the flesh, of the latter, they mind the things of the Spirit. The word φρονεῖν is derived from φρήν, which is used for the seat of all mental affections and faculties, and therefore φρονέω has a wide meaning. It expresses any form of mental activity, any exercise of the intellect, will, or affections.
They mind (φρονοῦσιν,) therefore, means, they make the object of attention, desire, and pursuit.
The things of the flesh, are the objects on which their hearts are set, and to which their lives are devoted. Things of the flesh are not merely sensual things, but all things which do not belong to the category of the things of the Spirit. Compare Matthew 16:23, οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ thou savorest not the things of God. Philippians 3:19, οἱ τὰ ἐπίγεια φρονοῦντες. Colossians 3:2, etc. The English word mind is used with much the same latitude. The idea evidently is, that the objects of attention, desire, and pursuit, to the carnal, are corrupt and worldly; while to the spiritual, they are the things which the Spirit proposes and approves.
VERSE 6. For to be carnally minded is death. The γάρ here is by many taken as a mere particle of transition, equivalent to but. 'But to be carnally minded is death.' The utter incompatibility between the indulgence of sin and a state of salvation is thus clearly expressed. It is impossible that justification should be disconnected with sanctification, because a sinful and carnal state of mind is death. It is better, however, to take γάρ in its usual sense of for. The connection may then be with ver. 4, so that verses 5 and 6 are coordinate, ver. 6 presenting an additional reason why believers do not walk after the flesh. They do not thus walk, for to do so is death. Or, the connection is with ver. 5. Justification is limited to the holy, for to live after the flesh is death. The phrase φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός is substantially of the same import with φρονεῖν τὰ τῆς σαρκός, the minding the things of the flesh. It is thus active in its signification. It is, however, more in accordance with the proper signification of the word to understand it as expressing a state of the mind. This is implied in the English version, to be carnally minded. The idea is not merely that the actual seeking the things of the flesh leads to death; but that a carnal state of mind, which reveals itself in the desire and pursuit of carnal objects, is death. And by death is of course meant spiritual death, the absence and the opposite of spiritual life. It includes alienation from God, unholiness, and misery. On the other hand, the φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος is that state of mind which is produced by the Spirit, and which reveals itself in the desire and pursuit of the things of the Spirit. This state of mind is life and peace. Therein consists the true life and blessedness of the soul. This being the case, there can be no such thing as salvation in sin; no possibility of justification without sanctification. If partakers of the benefits of Christ's death, we are partakers of his life. If we died with him, we live with him. This is pertinent to the apostle's main object in this chapter, which is to show that believers never can be condemned. They are not only delivered from the law, and justified by the blood of Christ, but they are partakers of his life. They have the φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος which is life and peace.
VERSE 7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. This is the reason why the φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός is death. It is in its nature opposed to God, who is the life of the soul. His favor is life, and therefore opposition to him is death. The carnal mind is enmity to God, for it is not subject to the law of God. The law of God, however, is the revelation of his nature, and therefore opposition to the law, is opposition to God. This opposition on the part of the carnal mind is not casual, occasional, or in virtue of a mere purpose. It arises out of its very nature. It is not only not subject to the law of God, but it cannot be. It has no ability to change itself. Otherwise it would not be death. It is precisely because of this utter impotency of the carnal mind, or unrenewed heart, to change its own nature, that it involves the hopelessness which the word death implies. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:14, where the same truth is asserted: "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God—neither can he know them."
"Nec enim potest. En," says Calvin, "liberi arbitrii facultas, quam satis evehere sophistae nequent. Certe Paulus disertis verbis hic affirmat quod ipsi pleno ore detestantur, nobis esse impossibile subjicere legis obedientiae.... Procul igitur sit a Christiano pectore illa de arbitrii libertate gentilis philosophia. Servum peccati se quisque, ut re vera est, agnoscat, quo per Christi gratiam manumissus liberetur; alia libertate prosus stultum est gloriari."
To the same effect the modern German commentators, whether mystic, rationalistic, or evangelical. "No man," says Olshausen, "can free himself from himself:" "Von sich selbst kann sich keiner selbst losmachen, es muss eine hohere Liebe kommen, die ihn mehr anzieht, als sein Ich." "The will itself is fallen away from God," says Baumgarten-Crusius. And the evangelical Philippi says:
"This verse is a strong argument against the doctrine of the so-called liberum arbitrium of the natural man. For this carnal state of mind, which cannot subject itself to the will of God, it is not produced by any act; it constitutes, according to the apostle's doctrine, the original nature of man in its present or fallen state."
VERSE 8. The necessary consequence of this opposition of a mind governed by the flesh, towards God, is that these who are in this state are the objects of the divine displeasure.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. To be in the flesh, as before remarked, is to be under the government of the flesh, or corrupt nature, to be destitute of the grace of God. It is an expression applied to all unrenewed persons, as those who are not in the flesh are in the Spirit.
Cannot please God. ·Αρέσκειν τινί generally means to be pleasing, or acceptable to any one; Matthew 14:6; 1 Corinthians 7:32; Galatians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:15. Not to be pleasing to God, is to be the objects of his displeasure. Enmity towards God (ἔχθρα εἰς Θεόν) has its necessary consequence, subjection to the enmity of God(ἔχθρα Θεοῦ.) The apostle's immediate purpose is to show, that to be carnally-minded is death. It must be so, for it is enmity towards God. But those who hate God are the objects of his displeasure; and to be the objects of the wrath of God, is perdition. Surely, then, to be carnally minded is death. In vers. 9-11, the apostle applies to his readers what he had just said, and shows how it is that (φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος,) to be spiritually minded, is life and peace.
VERSE 9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, i.e. ye are not carnal, but spiritual. The Spirit, so to speak, is the element in which you live. Such the Roman Christians were by profession and by repute, for their faith was spoken of throughout the world. Their real character, however, was not determined either by their professions or their reputation. The apostle therefore adds, if so be the Spirit of God dwell in you. This is the only decisive test. Every other bond of union with Christ is of no avail without this. We may be members of his Church, and united to him by being included in the number of his people, yet unless we are partakers of that vital union which arises from the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, we are his only in name. Our version gives εἴπερ (if so be) its ordinary and proper sense. "Εἴπερ," says Hermann ad Viger, § 310,
"usurpatur de re, quae esse sumitur, sed in incerto relinquitur, utram jure an injuria sumatur; εἴγε autem de re, quae jure sumta creditur."
Sometimes, however, εἴπερ has the same force as εἴγε (since); as, 2 Thessalonians 1:6, "seeing it is a righteous thing with God." The ordinary sense of the particle, however, is better suited to this passage. The Spirit of God is everywhere; yet he is said to dwell wherever he specially and permanently manifests his presence. Thus he is said to dwell in heaven: he felt of old in the temple; he now dwells in the Church, which is a habitation of God through the Spirit, Ephesians 2:29; and he dwells in each individual believer whose body is a temple of the Holy Ghost, 1 Corinthians 6:19. Compare John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 6:16; 2 Timothy 1:14, etc.
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ. It is obvious that the Spirit of Christ is identical with the Spirit of God. The one expression is interchanged with the other: 'If the Spirit of God dwell in you, you are true Christians; for if the Spirit of Christ be not in you, you are none of his.' This is the reasoning of the apostle. "Spirit of Christ," therefore, can no more mean the temper or disposition of Christ, than "Spirit of God" can mean the disposition of God. Both expressions designate the Holy Ghost, the third person in the adorable Trinity. The Holy Spirit is elsewhere called the Spirit of Christ, Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19; 1 Peter 1:11. Whatever the genitive expresses in the one case, it does in the other. He is of the Spirit of Christ in the same sense in which he is the Spirit of God. In other words, the Spirit stands in the same relation to the second, that he does to the first person of the Trinity. This was one of the points of controversy between the Greek and Latin Churches; the latter insisting on inserting in that clause of the Creed which speaks of the procession of the Holy Ghost, the words "filioque," (and from the Son.) For this the gratitude of all Christians is due to the Latin Church, as it vindicates the full equality of the Son with the Father. No clearer assertion, and no higher exhibition of the Godhead of the Son can be conceived, than that which presents him as the source and the possessor of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit proceeds from, and belongs to him, and by him is given to whomsoever he wills. John 1:33, 15:26, 16:7; Luke 24:49, etc.
VERSE 10. And if, or rather, but if, (εἰδέ) Christ be in you. 'If a man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; but if Christ be in him, he is partaker of his life.' From this interchange of expression it is plain that to say that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, and to say that Christ dwells in us is the same thing. And as the former phrase is interchanged with Spirit of God, and that again elsewhere with God, it follows, that to say, God dwells in us, the Spirit of God dwells in us, Christ dwells in us, and the Spirit of Christ dwells in us, are only different ways of expressing the same thing. "Qui Spiritum habet, Christum habet; qui Christum habet, Deum habet." Bengel. This scriptural usage finds its explanation in the doctrine of the Trinity. While there is one only, the living and true God; yet as there are three persons in the Godhead, and as these three are the same in substance, it follows, that where the Father is, there the Son is, and where the Son is, there is the Spirit. Hence our Lord says, "If any man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode With him." John 14:23. And the apostle John says, "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God," 1 John 4:15. "I and my Father," says Christ, "are one." He therefore who hath the Son, hath the Father also. There is another familiar scriptural usage illustrated in this verse. Christ is properly an official designation of the Theanthropos, as the anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of his people. It is however used as a personal designation, and is applied to our Lord, as well in reference to his human as to his divine nature. Hence the Bible says indifferently, Christ died, and that he created all things. In this and other passages, therefore, when Christ is said to dwell in us, it is not Christ as man, nor Christ as the Theanthropos, but Christ as God. Compare 2 Corinthians 13:5, "Know ye not that Jesus Christ is in you." His indwelling in his people is as much a function of his divine nature, as his creating and upholding all things by the word of his power.
And if Christ (be) in you, the body is dead because of sin, etc. As this verse is antithetical to the preceding, δέ should be rendered but: "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; but if Christ be in you, although the body must die on account of sin, the spirit shall live because of righteousness." The Spirit is the source of life, and wherever he dwells, there is life.
The body indeed is dead, τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρόν. That σῶμα here is to be taken in its literal sense is plain, because such is the proper meaning of the word. It is rarely, if at all, used in the figurative sense in which σάρξ (flesh) so often occurs. This interpretation also is required by the antithesis between body and spirit, in this verse. The context also demands this view of the passage, both because of the reference to the resurrection of Christ, which was of course literal, and because in the next verse we have the phrase "mortal bodies," which does not admit of a figurative interpretation. The sense also afforded by the literal meaning of the word is so natural, and so suited to the context, as to preclude the necessity of seeking for any other. In this view the majority of commentators concur. Others, however, understand by σῶμα the corrupt nature, or the whole nature of man, his soul and body, as distinguished from the Spirit as the principle of divine life. The word νεκρόν is made to mean νενεκρωμένον, put to death, mortified; and δἰ ἁμαρτίαν, on account of sin, is made equivalent to τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ, as to sin. This evidently does unnecessary violence to the literal meaning of the words. The body is dead in the sense that it is not only obnoxious to death, but as it is already the seat of death. It includes in it the principle of decay. This necessity of dying is on account of sin. It is not inconsistent with the perfection of the redemption of Christ, that its benefits are not received in their fullness the moment we believe. We remain subject to the pains, the sorrows, the trials of life, and the necessity of dying, although partakers of the life of which he is the author. That life which is imparted in regeneration, is gradually developed until it has its full consummation at the resurrection.
The spirit is life because of righteousness. By spirit here, is not to be understood the Holy Spirit, but the human spirit, because it stands opposed to body in the former clause. The body is dead, but the spirit is life. It should not therefore be printed with a capital S, as in the ordinary copies of the English version. The sense in which the spirit is life, is antithetical to that in which the body is dead. As the body is infected with a principle of decay which renders its dissolution inevitable, so the soul, in which the Holy Spirit dwells, is possessed of a principle of life which secures its immortal and blessed existence.
Because of righteousness; δικαιοσύνη, as opposed to ἁμαρτία, must be taken in its subjective sense. It is inward righteousness or holiness, of which the apostle here speaks, and not our justifying righteousness. It is because the Holy Ghost, as dwelling in believers, is the source of holiness, that he is the source of life. The life of which he is the author, is the life of God in the soul, and is at once the necessary condition and the effect of the enjoyment of his fellowship and favor. We shall continue in the enjoyment of the life just spoiled of; because the principles of this new and immortal existence are implanted within us. Regeneration is the commencement of eternal life. The present possession of the Spirit is an earnest of the unsearchable riches of Christ, Ephesians 1:14. In this view the verse is directly connected with the main object of the chapter, viz. the security of all who are in Christ Jesus. To such there is no condemnation, because they have been freed from the law which condemned them to death; and because the work of salvation is already begun in them. They have eternal life, John 6:47.
VERSE 11. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the deal dwell in you. Such periphrases for God as that which this verse contains, are very common with the apostle, (see Romans 4:24, etc.,) and are peculiarly appropriate when the force of the argument in some measure rests on the fact to which the descriptive phrase refers. Because God had raised up Christ, there was ground of confidence that he would raise his people up also. Two ideas may be included in this part of the verse: first, that the very possession of that Spirit, which is the source of life is a pledge and security that our bodies shall rise again; because it would be unseemly that anything thus honored by the Spirit, should remain under the dominion of death; and, secondly, that the resurrection of Christ secures the resurrection of those that are his, according to Paul's doctrine in 1 Corinthians 15:23. The argument of the apostle is, that the same Spirit which was in Christ, and raised him from the dead dwells in us, even in our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:19), and will assuredly raise us up.
He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies. This clause cannot, with any regard to usage or the context, be understood of a moral resurrection, or deliverance from sin, as it is explained by Calvin and many others. See the analogous passage, 2 Corinthians 4:14. The apostle designs to show that the life which we derive from Christ, shall ultimately effect a complete triumph over death. It is true that our present bodies must die, but they are not to continue under the power of death. The same Spirit which raised Christ's body from the grave, shall also quicken our mortal bodies. The word is not ἐγειρεῖ, but ζωοποιήσει, which imports more than a mere restoration of life. It is used only of believers. It expresses the idea of the communication of that life of which Christ is the author and the source. And this life's, so far as the body is concerned, secures its conformity to the glorious body of the risen Son of God.
By his Spirit that dwelleth in you, or, as it must be rendered according to another reading, "On account of his Spirit that dwelleth in you." For the reading διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ πνεῦμα, Wetstein quotes the MSS. D. E. F. G. and many of the more modern MSS., together with the Syriac and Latin versions, and several of the Fathers. This reading is adopted by Erasmus, Stephens, Mill, Bengel, Griesbach, and Knapp. For the reading διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος, κ.τ.λ. are quoted the MSS. A. 10. 22. 34. 38. 39., the editions of Colinaeus, Beza, the Complutensian, and many of the Fathers. Lachmann and Tischendorf retain the common text. This passage is of interest, as the reading, ἐνοικοῦντος was strenuously insisted on in be Macedonian controversy respecting the personality of the Holy Ghost.
The orthodox Fathers contended, that as the genitive was found in the most ancient copies of the Scriptures then extant, it should be retained. If the dead are raised by the Holy Ghost, then the Holy Ghost is of the same essence with the Father and the Son, to whom, elsewhere, the resurrection of the dead is referred. This argument is valid, and, other things being equal, is a good reason for retaining the common text. The sense, however, is in either case substantially the same. According to the former, the meaning is, that the resurrection of believers will be effected by the power of the Spirit of God; and according to the latter, that the indwelling of the Spirit is the ground or reason why the bodies of believers should not be left in the grave. The internal evidence is decidedly in favor of the former reading:
1. Because Paul uses precisely these words elsewhere, "By the Holy Spirit," etc., 2 Timothy 1:14, etc.
2. Because throughout the Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments, what God does in nature or grace, he is said to do by his Spirit. Passages are too numerous and too familiar to be cited.
3. Because the Jews seem to have referred the resurrection of the body specially to the Holy Ghost. As the external authorities are nearly equally divided, the case must be considered doubtful. If the latter reading be adopted, this clause would then answer to the phrase, on account of righteousness, in the preceding verse. 'On account of the indwelling of the Spirit,' expressing the same general idea under another form. Our souls shall live in happiness and glory, because they are renewed: and our bodies too shall be raised up in glory, because they are the temples of the Holy Ghost. In the wisest sense then it is true, that to be in the Spirit, is to be secure of life and peace.
It will be remarked, that in this verse, and elsewhere, God is said to have raised up Christ from the dead, whereas, in John 10:17, 18, the Savior claims for himself the power of resuming his life. So here (according to the common reading) we are said to be raised up by the Holy Spirit; in John 6:40, Christ says of the believer, "I will raise him up at the last day;" and in 2 Corinthians 4:14, and in many other places, the resurrection of believers is ascribed to God. These passages belong to that numerous class of texts, in which the same work is attributed to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and which, in connection with other sources of proof, show conclusively that "these three are one;" and that the persons of the Adorable Trinity concur in all works ad extra.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. As the former part of this chapter is an inference from the previous discussion, and presents a summary of the great truths already taught, we find here united the leading doctrines of the first portion of the epistle. For example, justification is by faith, ver. 1; believers are not under the law, ver. 2; the law is insufficient for our justification; God has accomplished that object by the sacrifice of his Son; verses 3, 4; and this blessing is never disconnected with a holy life, ver. 4.
2. The final salvation of those who are really united to Christ, and who show the reality of their union by good works, is secure. This is the doctrine of the whole chapter. This section contains two of the apostle's arguments in its support.
1. They are free from the law which condemned them to death, verses 2-4.
2. They are partakers of that Spirit; which is the author and earnest of eternal life, verses 5-11.
3. Jesus Christ is truly divine. He is "God's own Son," i.e. partakers of his nature. The Holy Ghost is his Spirit, and he dwells in all believers, vers. 3, 11.
4. Jesus Christ is truly a man. He came in the likeness of men, ver. 3.
5. Christ was a sacrifice for sin, and his sufferings were penal, i.e., they were judicially inflicted in support of the law. 'God punished sin in him,' ver. 3.
6. The justification of believers involves a fulfilling of the law; its demands are not set aside, ver. 4.
7. Everything in the Bible is opposed to antinomianism. Paul teaches that justification and sanctification cannot be disjoined. No one is or can be in the favor of God, who lives after the flesh, verses 5-11.
8. The necessity of holiness arises out of the very nature of things. sin is death, whereas holiness is life and peace. God has made the connection between sin and misery, holiness and happiness, necessary and immutable, ver. 6. The fact that holy men suffer, and that even the perfect Savior was a man of sorrows, is not inconsistent with this doctrine. Such sufferings never proceed from holiness. On the contrary, the Divine Spirit was, and is a wellspring within of joy and peace, to all who are sanctified. In itself considered, therefore, moral purity is essentially connected with happiness, as cause and effect.
9. All unrenewed men, that is, all "who are in the flesh," are at once the enemies of God, and the objects of his displeasure. Their habitual and characteristic state of mind, that state which every man has who is not "in the Spirit," is enmity to God, and consequently is the object of his disapprobation, verses 6, 8.
10. The Holy Ghost is the source of all good in man. Those who are destitute of his influences, are not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; for no man can call Jesus Lord, that is, can really recognize his authority, but by the Holy Ghost, verses 5-8.
11. Death and the other evils to which believers are exposed, are on account of sin, ver. 10. They are no longer, however, the evidences of God's displeasure, but of his paternal love, Hebrews 12:6.
12. The redemption of Christ extends to the bodies as well as the souls of his people, ver. 11.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. There can be no safety, no holiness, and no happiness to those who are out of Christ. No safety, because all such are under the condemnation of the law, verses 1-3; no holiness, because only such as are united to Christ have the Spirit of Christ, ver. 9; and no happiness, because "to be carnally minded is death," ver. 6. Hence those who are in Christ, should be very humble, seeing they are nothing, and he is everything; very grateful, and very holy. And those who are out of Christ, should at once go to him, that they may attain safety, holiness, and happiness.
3. Believers should be joyful and confident, for the law is fulfilled; its demands are satisfied as respects them. Who then can condemn, if God has justified? ver. 4.
4. There can be no rational or scriptural hope without holiness, and every tendency to separate the evidence of the divine favor from the evidence of true piety, is anti-Christian and destructive, verses 4-8.
5. The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits, is the only decisive test of character. "They who are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh," etc., ver. 5.
6. It is therefore a sure mark of hypocrisy, if a man who professes to be a Christian, still minds earthly things, that is, has his affections and efforts supremely directed towards worldly objects.
9. The great distinction of a true Christian, is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Hence his dignity, holiness, and happiness, verses 9-11.
10. If the Spirit of God dwells in the Christian, how careful should he, lest anything in his thoughts or feelings would be offensive to this divine guest!
11. Christians are bound to reverence their bodies, and preserve them from all defilement, because they are the members of Christ, and the temples of the Holy Ghost, ver. 11.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
THIS section contains two additional arguments in support of the great theme of the chapter—the safety of all who are in Christ. The first is derived from their adoption, verses 12-17, and the second from the fact that they are sustained by hope, and aided by the Spirit, under all their trials; so that everything eventually works together for their good, verses 18-28.
Paul had just shown that believers were distinguished by the indwelling of the Spirit. Hence he infers the obligation to live according, to the Spirit, and to mortify the deeds of the body, ver. 12. If they did this, they should live, ver. 13. Not only because, as previously argued, the Spirit is the source of life, but also because all who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. This is a new ground of security, ver. 14. The reality of their adoption is proved, first, by their own filial feelings; as God's relations and feelings towards us are always the counterpart of ours towards him, ver. 15. Secondly, by the testimony of the Spirit itself with our spirits, ver. 16. If children, the inference is plain that believers shall be saved, for they are heirs. Salvation follows adoption, as, among men, heirship does sonship. They are joint heirs with Jesus Christ, ver. 17.
It is nowise inconsistent with their filial relation to God, nor with their safety, that believers are allowed to suffer in this world:
1. Because these sufferings are comparatively insignificant, vers. 18-23.
2. Because they are sustained by hope.
3. Because the Spirit itself intercedes for them.
In amplifying the first of those considerations, the comparative insignificance of the sufferings of this present state, the apostle presents in contrast the unspeakable blessedness and glory which are in reserve for believers, ver. 18. To elevate our conceptions of this glory, he represents;
1. The whole creation as looking and longing for its full manifestation, ver. 19, etc.
2. All those who have now a foretaste of this blessedness, or the first fruits of the Spirit, as joining in this sense of present wretchedness, and earnest desire of the future good, ver. 23.
These afflictions, then, are not only thus comparatively light in themselves, but they are made still more tolerable by the constant and elevating anticipation of the future inheritance of the saints, vers. 24, 25. And not only so, but the Spirit also sustains us by his intercessions, thus securing for us all the good we need, vers. 26-28. The salvation, then, of believers, is secure, notwithstanding their sufferings, inasmuch as they are children, and are sustained and aided by the Holy Spirit.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
VERSE 12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. We have here an example of what the rhetoricians call meiosis, where less is said than intended. So far from being debtors to the flesh, the very reverse is the case. This passage is an inference from the exhibition of the nature and tendency of the flesh, or the carnal mind, as hostile to God, and destructive to ourselves, vers. 5, 8. As this is its nature, and believers are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit, they are under the strongest obligations not to live after the one, but after the other.
We are debtors; ὀφειλέται ἐσμέν. We are the debtors, not of the flesh, but, as the implication is, of the Spirit. Of the two controlling principles, the flesh and the Spirit, our obligation is not to the former, but to the latter.
To live after the flesh; τοῦ κατὰ σάρκα ζῆν. The genitive is, here, either the genitive of design, 'in order that we should live after the flesh;' or it depends on ὀφειλέται, agreeably to the formula, ὀφειλέτης εἰμί τινί τινος, I am debtor to some one for something. The sense would then be, 'We do not owe the flesh a carnal life.' The former explanation is the simpler and more natural.
VERSE 13. The necessity of thus living is enforced by a repetition of the sentiment of ver. 6. To live after the flesh is death; to live after the Spirit is life.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit, etc. The necessity of holiness, therefore, is absolute. No matter what professions we may make, or what hopes we may indulge justification, or the manifestation of the divine favor, is never separated from sanctification.
Ye shall die; μέλλετε ἀποθνήσκειν, ye are about to die; death to you is inevitable. Compare Romans 4:24; 1 Thessalonians 3:4; James 2:12. The death here spoken of, as appears from the whole context, and from the nature of the life with which it is contrasted, cannot be the death of the body, either solely or mainly. It is spiritual death, in the comprehensive scriptural sense of that term, which includes all the penal consequences of sin here and hereafter, Romans 6:21, 8:6: Galatians 6:8.
But if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. The use of the word mortify, to put to death or destroy, seems to have been suggested by the context. 'Ye shall die, unless ye put to death the deeds of the body;' see Colossians 3:5. The destruction of sin is a slow and painful process.
Deeds of the body. It is commonly said that body is here equivalent to flesh, and therefore signifies corruption. But it is very much to be doubted whether the word ever has this sense in the New Testament. The passages commonly quoted in its behalf, Romans 6:6, 7:24, 8:10, 13, are very far from being decisive. If the common reading, therefore, is to be retained, (see note,) it is better to take the word in its literal and usual sense.
The deeds of the body is then a metonymical expression for sinful deeds in general; a part being put for the whole. Deeds performed by the body, being the deeds which the body, as the organ of sin, performs.
The destruction of sin is to be effected through the Spirit, which does not mean the renewed feelings of the heart, but, as uniformly throughout the passage, the Holy Spirit which dwells in believers: see ver. 14, where this Spirit is called "Spirit of God."
Ye shall live, that is, enjoy the life of which the Spirit is the author; including therefore holiness, happiness, and eternal glory.
VERSE 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. This is the reason why all such shall live; that is, a new argument is thus introduced in support of the leading doctrine of the chapter. Believers shall enjoy eternal life, not because they have the Spirit of life, but because they are the sons of God.
To be led by the Spirit, and to walk after the Spirit, present the same idea, viz, to be under the government of the Spirit, under two different aspects, Galatians 5:18: 2 Peter 1:21. The former phrase refers to the constant and effectual influence of the Holy Ghost in regulating the thoughts, feelings, and conduct of believers.
Are the sons of God. The term son, in such connections, expresses mainly one or the other of three ideas, and sometimes all of them united.
1. Similarity of disposition, character, or nature; Matthew 5:9, 45, "That ye may be the children (Gr. sons) of your Father which is in heaven." So, too, "sons of Abraham" are those who are like Abraham; and "children of the devil" are those who are like the devil.
2. Objects of peculiar affection. Romans 9:26. Those who were not any people, "shall be called the sons of the living God;" 2 Corinthians 6:18, "Ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." So frequently elsewhere.
3. Those who have a title to some peculiar dignity or advantage. Thus the "sons of Abraham" are those who are heirs with Abraham of the same promise, Galatians 3:8, seq.; John 1:12; 1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be," etc. The term may indeed express any one of the various relations in which children stand to their parents, as derived from them, dependent on them, etc. The above, however, are the most common of its meanings. In this passage, the first and third ideas appear specially intended: 'Believers shall live, because they are the peculiar objects of the divine affection, and are heirs of his kingdom,' vers. 15, 16.
That those who are led by the Spirit are really the sons of God, appears from their own filial feelings, and from the testimony of the Spirit. The indwelling of the Spirit, of God raises those in whom he dwells, into the state of sons of God. By regeneration, or new birth, they are born into a higher life; are made partakers, as the apostle Peter says, of the divine nature; and are thus, through and in Christ, the source of their new life, the objects of the divine love, and the heirs of his kingdom.
VERSE 15. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the Spirit of adoption., etc. That is, 'The Holy Spirit, which you have received, does' not produce a slavish and anxious state of mind, such as those experience who are under the law; but it produces the filial feelings of affection, reverence, and confidence, and enables us, out of the fullness of our hearts, to call God our Father.'
The phrase, the spirit of bondage, may mean a feeling or sense of bondage, as "spirit of meekness," 1 Corinthians 4:21, may mean meekness itself; and "spirit of fear," 2 Timothy 1:7, fear itself. This use of the word spirit is not uncommon. Or it may mean the Holy Spirit as the author of bondage: 'Believers have not received a Spirit which produces slavish feelings, but the reverse.' The context is decidedly in favor of this view: because Paul has been speaking of the Holy Spirit as dwelling in Christians. This Spirit is that which they have received, and is the author of their characteristic feelings. In the words again to fear, there is an evident allusion to the state of believers prior to the reception of this, Spirit. It was a state of bondage in which they feared, i.e. were governed by a slavish and anxious apprehension of punishment. In this state are all unconverted men, whether Jews or Gentiles, because they are all under the law, or the bondage of a legal system.
Spirit of adoption; the Spirit that produces the feelings which children have. The Spirit is so called because he adopts. It is by him we are made the sons of God, and his indwelling, as it produces the character of sons, so it is the pledge or assurance of sonship, and of final salvation, Ephesians 1:14. The contrast here presented between the πνεῦμα δουλείας and the πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας, is parallel to that between δοῦλοι and υἱοί in Galatians 3:23-26, 4:1-8. Those who are unrenewed, and under the law, are δοῦλοι, slaves; they are under the dominion of servile fear, and they have no right to the inheritance. Those who are in Christ by faith and the indwelling of his Spirit, are sons, both in their inward state and feelings, and in their title to everlasting life. The interpretation followed by Luther, who renders πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας, "ein kindlicher Geist," makes spirit, here mean disposition, feeling, and the genitive (υἱοθεσίας) the genitive of the source; "the disposition which flows from adoption or sonship." But this is not only inconsistent with the context, but with such passages as Galatians 4:6, where what is here called the Spirit of adoption, is said to be the Spirit of the Son of God, which God sends forth into our hearts.
By which we cry, Abba, Father, i.e. which enables us to address God as our Father. "Clamor," says Bengel, "sermo vehemens, cum desederio, fiducia, fide, constantia." Abba is the Syriac and Chaldee form of the Hebrew word for father, and therefore was to the apostle the most familiar term. As such it would, doubtless, more naturally and fully express his filial feeling towards God, than the foreign Greek word. It is rare, indeed, that any other than our mother tongue becomes so interwoven with our thoughts and feelings, as to come up spontaneously when our hearts are overflowing. Hence, expressions of tenderness are the last words of their native language which foreigners give up; and in times of excitement, and even delirium, they are sure to come back. Paul, therefore, chose to call God his Father, in his own familiar tongue. Having used the one word, however, the Greek of course became necessary for those to whom he was writing. The repetition of two synonyms may, however, be employed to give fuller utterance to his feeling. This is Grotius's idea:
"Imitatur puerorum patribus blandientium voces. Mos est blandientium repetere voces easdem."
It is a very common opinion that Paul used both words, to intimate that all distinction between different nations was now done away.
"Significat enim Paulus, ita nunc per totum mundum publicatam esse Dei misericordiam, ut promiscue linguis omnibus invocetur: quemadmodum Augustinus observat. Ergo inter omnes gentes consensum exprimere voluit." Calvin.
The former explanation seems more natural and satisfactory.
VERSE 16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. 'Not only do our own filial feelings towards God prove that we are his children, but the Holy Spirit itself conveys to our souls the assurance of this delightful fact.'
The Spirit itself (αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα, and not τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα, which would mean, the same spiritis, of course, the Holy Spirit.
1. Because of the obvious distinction between it and our spirit.
2. Because of the use of the word throughout the passage.
3. Because of the analogy to other texts, which cannot be otherwise explained. Galatians 4:6, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father;" Romans 5:5, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us," etc.
Beareth witness with our spirit, συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν; that is, 'beareth witness, together with our own filial feelings, to our spirit.' Although it is very common for compound verbs to have the same force with the simple ones, yet, in this case, the context requires the force of the preposition to be retained, as two distinct sources of confidence are here mentioned, one in ver. 15, the other in this verse.
Beareth witness to, means confirms or assures. "The Spirit of God produces in our spirit the assurance that we are the children of God.' How this is done we cannot fully understand, any more than we can understand the mode in which he produces any other effect in our mind. The tact is clearly asserted here, as well as in other passages. See Romans 5:5, where the conviction that we are the objects of the love of God, is said to be produced "by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." See 2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30; and in 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5; 1 John 2:20, 27, and other passages, the conviction of the truth of the gospel is, in like manner attributed to the Holy Spirit. From this passage it is clear that there is a scriptural foundation for the assurance of salvation. Those who have filial feelings towards God, who love him, and believe that he loves them, and to whom the Spirit witnesses that they are the children of God, cannot doubt that they are indeed his children. And if children, they know they are heirs, as the apostle teaches in the following verse.
VERSE 17. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, etc. This is the inference from our adoption, in favor of the great theme of the chapter, the safety of believers. If the children of God, they shall become partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. The words to inherit, heirs, and inheritance, are all of them used in a general sense in the Scriptures, in reference to the secure possession of any good, without regard to the mode in which that possession is obtained. They are favorite terms with the sacred writers, because possession by inheritance was much more secure than that obtained by purchase, or by any other method. There are three ideas included in these words, accessory to that which constitutes their prominent meaning—the right, the certainty, and the unalienable character of the possession. Hence, when the apostle says, believers are the heirs of God, he means to recognize their title, in and through the Redeemer, to the promised good, as well as the certainty and security of the possession. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise," Galatians 3:29. In Galatians 4:7, we have the same argument as in the passage before us, "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ;" see Colossians 3:24; Hebrews 9:15; Ephesians 1:14, etc.
Joint heirs with Christ. These words are intended to designate the inheritance with believers are to revive. It is not any possession in this world, but it is that good of which Christ himself is the recipient; we are to be partakers of his inheritance. This idea is frequently presented in the Scriptures. "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord," Matthew 25:21; "That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom," Luke 22:30; "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne," etc., Revelation 3:21, and in many other places.
If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also gloried together. Those suffer with Christ who suffer as he did, and for his sake. They are thus partakers of the sufferings of Christ. We suffer as Christ suffered, not only when we are subject to the contradiction of sinners, but in the ordinary sorrows of life in which he, the man of sorrows, so largely shared. We are said to suffer with Christ, ἵνα, in order that we may be glorified together. That is, the design of God in the affliction of his people, is not to satisfy the demands of justice, but to prepare them to participate in his glory. To creatures in a state of sin, suffering is the necessary condition of exaltation. It is the refining process through which they must pass, 1 Peter 1:6, 7. The union of believers with Christ, in suffering as well as in glory, is what he and his apostles taught them to expect. "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me," Matthew 16:24; "If we be dead with him, we shall also live with him. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him," 2 Timothy 2:11, 12. The blessedness of the future state is always represented as exalted; it is a glory, something that will elevate us in the rank of beings; enlarging, purifying, and ennobling all our faculties. To this state we are to attain "through much tribulation," i.e. attain it as Christ did. And this is what the apostle here intends to say, and not that the participation of Christ's glory is a reward for our having suffered with him.
VERSE 18. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared," etc. 'If children, then heirs; for I do not think our present sufferings inconsistent with our being either the children or the heirs of God:
1. Because they are comparatively insignificant, vers. 18-23; and,
2. Because we are sustained under them, vers. 24-28.'
Without much altering the sense, the for may be considered as referring to the last clause of the preceding verse: 'We shall be glorified with Christ, for these present afflictions are not worthy of thought.' In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul speaks much in the same manner of the lightness of the afflictions of this life in comparison with the glory that shall he revealed in us. We are not only the recipients of a great favor, but the subjects in which a great display of the divine glory is to be made to others, Ephesians 3:10. It is a revelation of glory in us; see Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2.
Not worthy, οὐκ ἄξια, not of like weight. ῎̓͂Αξιόν τινος, what outweighs anything. Here, instead of the genitive, πρός is used—Not weighty in reference to, or in comparison with. As the glory so outweighs the suffering, the idea of merit, whether of condignity or of congruity, is of necessity excluded. It is altogether foreign to the context. For it is not the ground on which eternal life is bestowed, but the greatness of the glory that the saints are to inherit, which the apostle designs to illustrate.
"Neque enim," says Calvin, "dignitatem utriusque confert apostolus, sed gravitatem crucis tantum elevat comparatione magnitudinis gloriae, idque ad confirmandos patientia fidelium animos."
The apostle, fired with the thought of the future glory of the saints, pours forth the splendid passage which follows, (vers. 19-23,) in which he represents the whole creation groaning under its present degradation, and looking and longing for the revelation of this glory, as the end and consummation of its existence.
VERSE 19. For the earnest expectation of the creature, etc. This verse is evidently designed to confirm the assertion contained in the preceding verse. As, however, it is there asserted that the glory to be revealed in us is great, that it is certain, and that it is future, which of these points does the apostle here, and in what follows, design to establish? Some say, that in the preceding clause, τὴν μέλλουσαν δόξαν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι, μέλλουσαν is the emphatic word. The glory is future, for it is an object of expectation. We are saved only in hope. Others again say, that the main idea is that this glory is about to be, i.e., certainly shall be revealed, agreeably to the special force of the word μέλλειν. But the main idea of ver. 18 obviously is, that this future glory transcends immeasurably the suffering of this present state. All that follows tends to illustrate and enforce that idea.
The earnest expectation, ἀποκαραδοκία, from καραδοκεῖν, erecto capite prospicere, to look for with the head erect. The ἄπο is intensive; so that ἀποκαραδοκία is earnest or persistent expectation. It is an expectation that waits the time out, that never fails until the object is attained. The object of this earnest expectation is, the manifestation of the sons of God. That is, the time when they shall be manifested in their true character and glory as his sons. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him." 1 John 3:2. The subject of this expectation is the κτίσις, the creation. As this word signifies, first, the act of creating, and then, any individual created thing, or all creatures collectively, its meaning in any particular place must be determined by the context. In this passage it has been made to mean:
1. The whole rational and irrational creation, including angels, and all things else, animate and inanimate.
2. The whole world, excluding angels, but inclusive of the irrational animals.
3. The whole material creation, in a popular sense, as we say, all nature.
4. The whole human race.
5. The heathen world, as distinguished from believers.
6. The body of believers.
The choice between these several interpretations must be determined by what is predicated of the κτίσις in this immediate connection, and by the analogy of Scripture. Unless the Bible elsewhere speaks of angels as the subjects of redemption, they cannot be here included, especially as they, as a class, are not subject to corruption. How far irrational animals are included, is more doubtful.
The prophetic representations of the Messianic period set forth not only inanimate nature, the deserts, mountains, and forests, as rejoicing in the new order of things, but also the beasts of the field; and therefore there is scriptural ground for including them under the comprehensive words of the apostle. That κτίσις here, is to be taken, not as meaning the whole human family, nor the heathen world, nor all rational creatures, but the whole creation with which we are immediately connected—the earth, and all its tribes of beings, man excepted—is the opinion of the great majority of commentators of all ages. It is supported by the following considerations:
1. In the first place, the words πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις, the whole creation, are so comprehensive, that nothing should be excluded which the nature of the subject and the context do not show cannot be embraced within their scope. It has already been remarked, that as Paul is speaking of the benefits of redemption, no class of creatures not included in some way in that redemption, can be here intended. While the good angels are, according to the Scriptures, not only deeply interested in this great work, 1 Peter 1:12, but receive through it the clearest manifestation of the manifold wisdom of God, Ephesians 3:10, yet they are not in such a sense partakers of the redemption of Christ as this passage supposes. They are not burdened with the consequences of man's apostasy, nor can they be represented as longing for deliverance from that burden. Angels, therefore, must be secluded from "the whole creation" here intended.
2. In the second place, as the apostle clearly distinguishes between the κτίσις and believers, the latter cannot be included in the former. 'Not only,' he says, 'the κτίσις, but we believers groan within ourselves,' etc.
3. Neither can "the creature" mean the race of mankind as distinguished from Christians. Hammond, Locke, Semler, Ammon, and others, may be quoted in favor of this interpretation. Wetstein expresses the same view briefly and plausibly thus:
"Genus humanum dividitur in eos, qui jam Christo nomen dederunt, quique primitiae vocantur hic et Jac. 1:18, et reliquos, qui nondum Christo nomen dederunt, qui vocantur creatura vid. Marc. 14:15. Et Judai sentiunt onus legis suae: gentes reliquae tenebras suas palpant, praedicatione evangelii tanquam e somno excitatae; ubique magna rerum convertio expectatur."
To this, however, it may be objected:
(a) It cannot be said of the world of mankind, that they have an earnest expectation and desire for the manifestation of the sons of God. The common longing after immortality, to which reference is made in defense of the application of this verse to men in general, is very far from coming up to the force of the passage. "The manifestation of the sons of God" is a definite scriptural event, just as much as the second advent of Christ. It can, therefore, no more be said that the world longs for the one event than for the other. Yet had the apostle said the whole creation was longing for the second advent of the Son of God, can any one imagine he meant they were merely sighing after immortality? He evidently intends, that the creature is looking forward, with earnest expectation, to that great scriptural event which, from the beginning, has been held up as the great object of hope, viz., the consummation of the Redeemer's kingdom.
(b) It cannot be said, in its full and proper force, that mankind were brought into their present state, not by their own act, or "willingly," but by the act and power of God. The obvious meaning of verse 20 seems to be, that the fact that the creature was subjected to its present state, not by itself, but by God, is the reason, at once, why it longs for deliverance, and may hope to obtain it. Such exculpatory declarations respecting men, are not in keeping with the scriptural mode of speaking either of the conduct or condition of the world.
(c) A still greater difficulty is found in reconciling this interpretation with ver. 21. How can it be said of mankind, as a whole, that they are to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, and made partakers of the glorious liberty of the children of God? And, especially, how can this be said to occur at the time of the manifestation of the sons of God, i.e., at the time of the second advent, the resurrection day, when the consummation of the Redeemer's kingdom is to take place? According to the description here given, the whole creation is to groan under its bondage until the day of redemption, and then it also is to be delivered. This description can, in no satisfactory sense, be applied to mankind, as distinguished from the people of God.
(d) This interpretation does not suit the spirit of the context or drift of the passage. The apostle is represented as saying, in substance,
"The very nature and condition of the human race point to a future state: they declare that this is an imperfect, frail, dying, unhappy state; that man does not and cannot attain the end of his being here; and even Christians, supported as they are by the earnest of future glory, still find themselves obliged to sympathize with others in these sufferings, sorrows, and deferred hopes."
But how feeble and attenuated is all this, compared to the glowing sentiments of the apostle! His object is not to show that this state is one of frailty and sorrow, and that Christians must feel this as well as others. On the contrary, he wishes to show that the sufferings of this state are utterly insignificant in comparison with the future glory of the sons of God. And then to prove how great this glory is, he says, the whole creation, with outstretched neck, has been longing for its manifestation from the beginning of the world; groaning not so such under present evil as from the desire for future good.
As therefore the angels, the human race, and believers as a class, must be excluded, what remains but the creation, in the popular sense of that word—the earth, with all it contains, animate and inanimate, man excepted? With believers, the whole creation, in this sense, is represented as being burdened, and longing for deliverance. The refutation of the other interpretations shuts us up to the adoption of this. It is, moreover, consistent with the context and the analogy of Scripture. As the object of the apostle is to impress upon believers the greatness of the glory of which they are to be the subjects, he represents the whole creation as longing for its manifestation. There is nothing in this unnatural, unusual, or unscriptural. On the contrary, it is in the highest degree beautiful and effective, and at the same time in strict accordance with the manner of the sacred writers. How common is it to represent the whole creation as a sentient being, rejoicing in God's favor, trembling at his anger, speaking aloud his praise, etc. How often too is it represented as sympathizing in the joy of the people of God! "The mountains and hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the fields shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12. It may be objected, that such passages are poetical; but so is this. It is not written in meter, but it is poetical in the highest degree. There is, therefore, nothing in the strong figurative language of ver. 19, either inappropriate to the apostle's object, or inconsistent with the manner of the sacred writers.
It may also with the strictest propriety be said, that the irrational creation was subjected to vanity, not willingly, but by the authority of God. It shared in the penalty of the fall—"Cursed is the earth for thy sake." Genesis 3:17. And it is said still to suffer for the sins of its inhabitants: "Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth," Isaiah 24:6; "How long, shall the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein?" Jeremiah 12:4. This is a common mode of representation in the scriptures. How far the face of nature was affected, or the spontaneous fruitfulness of the earth changed by the curse, it is vain to ask. It is sufficient that the irrational creation was made subject to a frail, dying, miserable state, by the act of God (not by its own,) in punishment of the sins of men. This is the representation of the Scriptures, and this is the declaration of Paul. While this is true of the irrational creature, it is not true of mankind.
The principal point in the description of the apostle is, that the subjection of the creature to the bondage of corruption is not final or hopeless, but the whole creation is to share in the glorious liberty of the children of God. This also is in perfect accordance with the scriptural mode of representation on this subject. Nothing is more familiar to the readers of the Old Testament, than the idea that the whole face of the world is to be clothed in new beauty when the Messiah appears: "The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose," etc. Isaiah 35:1, 29:17, 32:15, 16. "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf, and the young lion, and the fattening together; and a little child shall lead them." Isaiah 11:6. Such passages are too numerous to be cited. The apostle Peter, speaking of the second advent, says the present state of things shall be changed, the heavens shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat: "Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness," 2 Peter 3:7-13. "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heavens and the first earth were passed away," Revelation 21:1; see Hebrews 12:26, 27. It is common, therefore, to describe the advent of the Messiah as attended with a great and glorious change of the external world. Whether this is intended merely as an exhortation, as is doubtless the case with many of the prophetic passages of the Old Testament; or whether it is really didactic, and teaches the doctrine of the restoration of the earth to more than its pristine beauty, which seems to be the meaning of some of the New Testament passages, is perfectly immaterial to our present purpose. It is enough that the sacred writers describe the consummation of the Redeemer's kingdom as attended with the palin-genesia of the whole creation. This is all Paul does; whether poetically or didactically, is too broad a question to be here entered upon.
In further confirmation of this interpretation it may be remarked, that this doctrine of the renewal of the external world, derived from the language of the prophets, was a common doctrine among the Jews. Abundant evidence of this fact may be seen in Eisenmenger's Entdecktes Judenthum (Judaism Revealed,) particularly in chapter fifteenth of the second part. The following passages are a specimen of the manner in which the Jewish writers speak on this subject:
"Hereafter, when the sin of men is removed, the earth, which God cursed on account of that sin, will return to its former state and blessedness, as it was before the sin of men," p. 828.
"At this time the whole creation shall be changed for the better, and return to the perfection and purity which it had in the time of the first man, before sin was."
See this latter quotation, and others of a similar import, in Tholuck. In the early Christian Church, this opinion was prevalent, and was the germ whence the extravagances of the Millenarians arose. Almost all such errors contain a portion of truth, to which they are indebted for their origin and extension. The vagaries, therefore, of the early heretics, and the still grosser follies of the Talmudical writers on this subject, furnish presumptive and confirmatory evidence that the sacred writers did teach a doctrine, or at least employed a mode of speaking of the future condition of the external world, which easily accounts for these errors.
The objections to this view of the passage are inconclusive.
1. It is objected that it would require us to understand all such passages as speak of a latter day of glory, literally, and believe that the house of God is to stand on the top of the mountains, etc. But this is a mistake. When it is said, "The heavens declare the glory of God," we do not understand the words literally, although we understand them as speaking of the visible heavens.
2. Neither are the prophetic descriptions of the state of the world at the time of the second advent, explained literally, even when understood didactically, that is, as teaching that there is to be a great and glorious change in the condition of the world. But even this, as remarked above, is not necessary to make good the common interpretation. It is sufficient that Paul, after the manner of the other sacred writers, describes the external world as sympathizing with the righteous, and participating in the glories of the Messiah's reign. If this be a poetic exaggeration in the one case, it may be in the other. Again, it is objected that the common interpretation is not suited to the design of the passage. But this objection is founded on a misapprehension of that design. The apostle does not intend to confirm our assurance of the truth of future glory, but to exalt our conceptions of its greatness. Finally, it is said to be very unnatural, that Paul should represent the external world as longing for a better state, and Christians doing the same, and the world of mankind be left unnoticed. But this is not unnatural if the apostle's design be as just stated.
There appears, therefore, to be no valid objection against supposing the apostle, in this beautiful passage, to bring into strong contrast with our present light and momentary afflictions, the permanent and glorious blessedness of our future state; and, in order to exalt our conceptions of its greatness, to represent the whole creation, now groaning beneath the consequences of the fall, as anxiously waiting for the long expected day of redemption.
VERSE 20. For the creature was made subject to vanity, etc. In this verse there are three reasons expressed or implied why the creature then waits for the manifestation of the sons of God.
1. that it is now subject to vanity.
2. That this subjection was not voluntary, but imposed by God.
3. That it was never designed to be final.
The creature was subjected, (ὑπετάγη, historical aorist: the fact referred to occurred at the fall, when the curse fell on the earth.) To vanity, ματαιότητι. This word expresses either physical frailty or worthlessness, or moral corruption. Here it is the former; in Ephesians 4:17; 2 Peter 2:18, it is the latter. The two ideas, however, are in the Scriptures nearly related. The idea here expressed is antithetical to that expressed by the word glory. It includes, therefore, all that distinguishes the present condition of the creature from its original state, and from the glorious future in reserve for it. What is expressed by ματαιότης, is in ver. 21 expressed by φθορᾶς, corruption. What the apostle here says of the creature, was familiar to his Jewish readers. Their Rabbis taught that:
"Quamvis creatae fuerint res perfectae, cum primus homo peccaret, corruptae tamen sunt, et non redibunt ad congruum statum suum, donec veniat Pharez," i.e. Messias. See Eisenmenger.
This subjection of the creature, the apostle says, was not ἑκοῦσα, not willingly, not of its own choice. It was neither by the voluntary act of the creature, nor in accordance with its own inclination. The inanimate creature was a passive sufferer, sharing in the curse which fell on man for his apostasy.
But by reason of him who faith subjected, ἀλλά (on the contrary) διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα, on account, i.e. in accordance with the will of Him who rendered it subject. It was the will of God, not of the creature, which caused the creature to be subject to vanity. While this can be said with the strictest propriety, of the material and irrational creation, it cannot properly be said of sinners. Their subjection to the bondage of corruption was by their own voluntary act, or by the voluntary act of their divinely constituted head and representative. The subjection of the creature to vanity, however, was not final and hopeless; it was ἐπ· ἐλπίδι. These words may be connected either with ὑπετάγη or with ὑποτάξαντα: 'the creature was subjected in hope;' or, 'on account of him subjecting it in hope.' In either case the sense is the same. The subjection was not a hopeless one. By giving ὑπετάγη a middle sense, and connecting, ἐπ ἐλπίδι therewith, we have the beautiful idea, that the creature submitted to the yoke of bondage in hope of ultimate deliverance.
"Subjecit se jugo, hac tamen spe, ut et ipsa liberetur tandem ab eo." Koppe.
"Obedientiae exemplum," says Calvin, "in creaturis omnibus proponit, et eam addit ex spe nasci, quia hinc soli et lunae, stellisque omnibus ad assiduum cursum alacritas, hinc terrae ad fructus gignendos sedulitas obsequii, hinc aeris indefessa agitatio, hinc aquis ad fluxum promptus vigor, quia Deus suas quibusque partes injunxit; nec tantum praeciso imperio quid fieri vellet, sed spem renovationis intus simul indidit."
VERSE 21. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption. This verse, according to our version, assigns the reason why the subjection of the creature was not hopeless. This reason is, that the creature was to share in the glorious redemption. The particle ὅτι, however, rendered because, may be rendered that, and the verse then indicates the object of the hope just spoken of: The subjection was with the hope that the creature should be delivered. In either way the sense is nearly the same.
The creature itself also, is another of the forms of expression which show that Paul speaks of the creation in a sense which does not embrace the children of God.
Bondage of corruption, i.e. bondage to corruption—the state of frailty and degradation spoken of above.
Delivered, or liberated into the liberty, is an elliptical form of expression for 'delivered and introduced into the liberty.'
Liberty of glory, as the words literally mean, or glorious liberty, refer to that liberty which consists in, or is connected with the glory which is the end and consummation of the work of redemption. This word is often used for the whole of the results of the work of Christ, as far as his people are concerned; (see ver. 18.) The creature then is to be partaker in some way, according to its nature, of the glories in reserve for the sons of God.
"Porro non intelligit, consortes ejusdem gloriae fore creaturas cum filiis Dei, sed suo modo melioris status fore socias: quia Deus simul cum humano genere orbem nunc collapsum in integrum restituet. Qualis vero futura sit integritas illa tam in pecudibus quam in plantis et metallis, curiosius inquirere neque expedit, neque fas est. Quia praecipua pars corruptionis est interitus: Quaerunt arguti, sed parum sobrii homines, an immortale futurum sit omne animalium genus: his speculationibus si frenum laxetur, quorsum tandem nos abripient? Hac ergo simplici doctrina content simus, tale fore temperamentum, et tam concinnum ordinem, ut nihil vel deforme vel fluxum appareat." Calvin.
VERSE 22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. This verse is a repetition and confirmation of the preceding sentiment: 'The creature is subject to vanity, and longs for deliverance; for we see, from universal and long continued experience, the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain.' It is, however, as Calvin remarks, the pains of birth, and not of death. After sorrow comes the joy of a new existence. The word together may have reference to the whole creation which groans together, all its parts uniting and sympathizing; or it may refer to the sons of God, 'For the whole creation groans together with the sons of God.' On account of the following verse, in which Christians are specially introduced as joining with the whole creation in this sense of present misery and desire of future good, the former method of understanding the passage seems preferable.
Until now, from the beginning until the present time. The creature has always been looking forward to the day of redemption.
"Particula Hactenus, vel ad hunc usque diem, ad levandum diuturni languoris taedium pertinet. Nam si tot saeculis durarunt in suo gemitu creaturae, quam inexcusabilis erit nostra mollities vel ignavia, si in brevi umbratilis vitae curriculo deficimus?" Calvin.
VERSE 23. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, etc. 'Not only does the whole creation thus groan, but we ourselves, we Christians, who have a foretaste of heavenly bliss, the first fruits of the glorious inheritance, we groan within ourselves, and long for the consummation of glory.' The first fruits was that portion of the productions of the earth which was offered to God. From the nature of the case, they contained the evidence and assurance of the whole harvest being secured. The idea, therefore, of an earnest or pledge is included in the phrase, as well as that of priority. This is the general if not constant use of the word in the New Testament. Thus Christ is called "the first fruits of them that slept," 1 Corinthians 15:20, not merely because he rose first, but also because his resurrection was a pledge of the resurrection of his people. See Romans 11:16; 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18. In all these places, both ideas may be, and probably ought to be retained. In the passages before us, what is here called the first fruits of the Spirit, is elsewhere called the earnest of the Spirit, Ephesians 1:14, etc. The phrases, the Spirit Which is the first fruits, and the Spirit which is an earnest, are therefore synonymous. The Spirit is the first fruits of the full inheritance of the saints in light. The expression in the text, therefore, is descriptive of all Christians, and not of any particular class of them; that is, it is not to be confined to those who first received the influences of the Spirit, or were first converted.
The interpretation given above, of this clause, is the one most commonly received, and the most natural. There is, however, great diversity in the MSS. as to the text, although the sense is substantially the same, whichever of the various readings be adopted. The common text is: οὐ μόνον δέ, ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτοὶ τὴν ἀπαρχὴν τοῦ πνεύματος ἔχοντες, καὶ ἡμεῖς αὐτοὶ ἐν ἑαυτοῖς στενάζομεν. This may mean, 'Not only (the κτίσις,) but they having the first fruits of the Spirit, and we ourselves groan,' etc. A distinction is thus made between those who have the first fruits of the Spirit, and those meant by we ourselves. Those who adopt this interpretation suppose that Paul intended by we, either himself individually, or himself and the other apostles. This view of the passage, however, is not the natural one, even assuming the correctness of the common text; and is impossible, if the true reading be ἡμεῖς αὐτοί, as found in the MSS. D. F. G., and adopted by many critics. The αὐτοί in the first clause, and the ἡμεῖς αὐτοί, refer to the same class of persons, and indicate the subject of the verb στενάζομεν. It is more doubtful what force should be given to the participle ἔχοντες. As the article is omitted, most commentators render it, 'although having.' 'Even we groan, although having the present influences and support of the Spirit.' In our version, and by Calvin, Beza, and Bengel, it is rendered as though the article was used, οἱ ἔχοντες, even we who have, i.e. the possessors of. This is more pertinent, as the apostle's object is to designate the class intended by we. The article in such cases is not always used, (see ver. 1,) according to the common text. In the phrase ἀπαρχὴ τοῦ πνεύματος, the genitive may be taken as the genitivus partivus. In favor of this is the signification of the word, and its ordinary use. In such expressions as "first fruits of the corn and of the wine," "of the dead," and others of a like kind, the genitive indicates that of which the first fruits are a part. This gives a good sense here. Believers now possess and now enjoy, in the indwelling of the Spirit, a prelibation of what they are to receive hereafter—a part of the full measure of divine influence in reserve for them. Still the analogy of Scripture is in favor of taking the genitive as the genitive of apposition. The Holy Spirit is the ἀπαρχή; or as it is said in Ephesians 1:14; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5, ἀωωαβών, the earnest of the Spirit. The inheritance of the saints in light, is that of which the Spirit is the first fruits and the earnest.
Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, ἐν ἑαυτοῖς as expressing the internal load by which the believer is now oppressed. Waiting for the adoption, υἱοθεσίαν without the article; 'waiting for adoption.' There is a sense in which believers are now the sons of God and partakers of adoption. But the full enjoyment of their blessedness as the children of God, the time when they shall he recognized as υἱοί, and enter upon their inheritance as such, is still future. Here Christians are in the condition of νήπιοι, minor children; their introduction into the state of υἱοί, in the sense of adult sons entitled to their inheritance, is their υἱοθεσία, for which they now wait, (ἀπεκδεχόμενοι,) with patient, but earnest desire. What, therefore, in the foregoing verse is expressed by "the manifestation of the sons of God," is here expressed by the single word "adoption."
Even the redemption of the body. The redemption of the body is not so in apposition with the adoption, that the two phrases are equivalent. The adoption includes far more than the redemption of the body. But the latter event is to be coincident with the former, and is included in it, as one of its most prominent parts. Both expressions, therefore, designate the same period: 'We wait for the time when we shall be fully recognized as the children of God, i.e. for the time when our vile bodies shall be falsified like unto the glorious body of the Son of God.' How much stress Paul laid upon the redemption of the body, is evident not only from this passage, and that in Philippians 3:21, just quoted, but also from the whole of 1 Corinthians 15, especially the latter part of the chapter. The time of the resurrection of the body, or the manifestation of the sons of God, is the time of the second advent of Jesus Christ. See 1 Corinthians 15:23, "Christ the first fruits; afterwards they that are Christ's, at his coming." 1 Thessalonians 4:16, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout; and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive," etc. This is the period towards which all eyes and all hearts have been directed, among those who have had the first fruits of the Spirit, since the fall of Adam; and for which the whole creation groaneth and is in travail even until now.
VERSES 24, 25. The apostle, intending to show that the present afflictions of believers are not inconsistent with their being the children of God, and are therefore no ground of discouragement, refers not only to their comparative insignificance, but also to the necessity which there is, from the nature of the case, for these sufferings: 'Salvation, in its fullness, is not a present good, but a matter of hope, and of course future; and if future, it follows that we must wait for it in patient and joyful expectation.' While, therefore, waiting for salvation is necessary, from the nature of the case, the nature of the blessing waited for, converts expectation into desire, and enables us patiently to endure all present evils.
For we are saved by hope, τῇ γὰρ ἐλπίδι ἐσώθημεν. At the close of preceding verse, Paul had spoken of believers as waiting for the adoption.
They thus wait, because salvation is not a present good, but a future one. We are saved in hope, i.e., in prospect. The dative (ἐλπίδι) does not in this case express the means by which anything is done, but the condition or circumstances in which it is, or the way and manner in which it occurs. It is therefore analogous to our forms of expression, we have a thing in expectation or prospect. Salvation is a blessing we have in hope, not in possession: if it be the one, it cannot be the other, since hope that is seen is not hope. It lies in the nature of hope, that its object must be future. The word hope is here used objectively for the thing hoped for, as in Colossians 1:5, "The hope that is laid up for you in heaven;" Hebrews 6:18; Ephesians 1:18, etc. The latter clause of the verse, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for; is only a confirmation of the previous declaration, that it lies in the nature of hope to have reference to the future. "This passage," says Olshausen, "is specially important for determining the true nature of hope. It stands opposed to βλέπειν, seeing — which supposes the object to be externally present. It is, however, no less opposed to the entire absence of its object. It is on the contrary, the inward possession of the things hoped for, so far as they are spiritual. A man can believe, and hope for eternal things, only so far as they are inwardly present to him. Therefore it is that Christian hope is something so exalted. It is the daughter of experience (Romans 5:4), and maketh not ashamed. It is the sister of faith and love. Good wishes, desires, and longings, are not hope, because they do not involve the real possession of the things longed for."
VERSE 25. But if we hope for that we see not, etc. That is, 'If hope has reference to the unseen and the future, then, as salvation is a matter of hope, it is a matter to be waited for.' It results, therefore, from the nature of the plan of redemption, that the full fruition of its blessing should not be obtained at once, but that through much tribulation believers should enter into the kingdom; consequently, their being called upon to suffer is not at all inconsistent with their being sons and heirs.
Then do we with patience wait for it; δἱ ὑπομονῆς with constancy, or firmness, which includes the idea of patience, as its consequence. There is something more implied in these words than that salvation, because unseen, must be waited for. This, no doubt, from the connection, is the main idea; but we not only wait, but we wait with patience, or constancy. There is something in the very expectation of future good, and especially of such good, the glory that shall be revealed in us, to produce not only patient but even joyful endurance of all present suffering.
"Spes ista," says Grotius, "non infructuosa est in nobis, egregiam virtutem operatur, malorum fortem tolerationem."
VERSE 26. Not only does hope thus cheer and support the suffering believer, but likewise the Spirit also helped our infirmities.
Likewise, literally, in the same way. As hope sustains, so, in the same manner, the Spirit does also. Not that the mode of assistance is the same, but simply as the one does, so also does the other. In this case at least, therefore, the word thus rendered is equivalent to moreover. The translation likewise suits the context exactly.
Helpeth, the word συναντιλαμβάνεται means to take hold of any thing with another, to take part in his burden or work, and thus to aid. Compare Luke 10:40. It is, therefore, peculiarly expressive and appropriate. It represents the condescending Spirit as taking upon himself; as it were, a portion of our sorrows to relieve us of their pressure.
"Magna est vis Graeci verbi συναντιλαμβάνεται quod scilicet partes oneris quo nostra infitmitas gravatur, ad se recipiens Spiritus non modo auxiliatur nobis et succurrit, sed perinde nos sublevat acsi ipse nobiscum, onus subiret." Calvin.
Our infirmities is the appropiate rendering of the original, which expresses the idea both of weakness and suffering. Hebrews 4:15, "We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with a feeling of our infirmities;" 2 Corinthians 12:5, "I will not glory, but in mine infirmities."
For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit, etc. What we know not is: τὸ τί προσευξώμεθα καθὸ δεῖ. The article τὸ belongs to the whole clause, as in Luke 9:46; Acts 4:21, and after.—Winer, 18:3. This is said as an illustration and confirmation of the previous general declaration; it is an example of the way in which the Spirit aids us. 'He helpeth our infirmities, for he teaches us how to pray, dictating to us our supplications,' etc. The necessity for this aid arises from our ignorance; we know not what to pray for. We cannot tell what is really best for us. Heathen philosophers gave this as a reason why men ought not to pray! How miserable their condition when compared to ours! Instead of our ignorance putting a seal upon our lips, and leaving our hearts to break, the Spirit gives our desires a language heard and understood of God. As we know not how to pray, the Spirit teacheth us. This idea the apostle expresses by saying, the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us. The simple verb (ἐντυγχάνω) rendered he maketh intercession, properly means to meet, then to approach any one to make supplication, Acts 25:24. This supplication may be against any one, Romans 11:2, or for him, ver. 34; Hebrews 7:25. Hence, to intercede for, is to act the part of advocate in behalf of any one. This Christ is said to do for us in the last two passages cited, as well as in Hebrews 9:24; 1 John 2:1; and John 14:16, for Christ calls the Holy Spirit "another advocate," i.e., another than himself. This office is ascribed to the Spirit in the last passage quoted, in John 14:26; 15:26; and 16:7, as well as in the passage before us. As the Spirit is thus said, in the general, to do for us what an advocate did for his client, so he does also what it was the special duty of the advocate to perform, i.e., to dictate to his clients what they ought to say, how they should present their cause. In this sense the present passage is to be understood. We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit teaches us. All true prayer is due to the influence of the Spirit, who not only guides us in the selection of the objects for which to pray, but also gives us the appropriate desires, and works within us that faith without which our prayers are of no avail. We are not to suppose that the Spirit itself prays, or utters the inarticulate groans of which the apostle here speaks. He is said to do what he causes us to do.
"Interpellare autem dicitur Spiritus Dei," says Calvin; "non quod ipse re vera suppliciter se ad precandum vel gemendum demittat, sed quod in animis nostris excitet ea vota, quibus nos sollicitari convenit; deinde corda nostra sic afficiat ut suo ardore in coelum penetrent."
Nevertheless, far more is meant than that the Spirit teaches us to pray, as one man may teach another. And more is meant than that, by a mere ab extra influence, certain desires and feelings are awakened in our hearts. The Spirit dwells in the believer as a principle of life. In our consciousness there is no difference between our own actings and those of the Spirit. There is, however, a concursus, a joint agency of the divine and human in all holy exercises, and more especially in those emotions, desires, and aspirations which we are unable to clothe in words. The στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις may mean with unutterable or unuttered groanings. The former is not only more forcible. but it is more in accordance with the experience and language of men. It is common to speak of emotions too big for utterance, and we all know what that means. The analogy of Scripture is also in favor of this view. The Bible speaks of God's unspeakable gift, 2 Corinthians 12:4 of ἄωωητα ωήματα, 'words which cannot be uttered;' and of 'a joy that is unspeakable,' χαρὰ ἀνεκλάλητος.
VERSE 27. Although these desires are not, and cannot be uttered, the eye of Him who searches the heart can read and understand them. And (rather, but) he who searcheth the hearts. To search the heart is the prerogative of God, as it implies omniscience. As no man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of man that is in him, to read the unexpressed emotions of the soul must be the work of Him to whose eyes all things are naked. "I the Lord, search the heart, I try the reins." Jeremiah 17:10; Psalm 139; 7:9; Revelation 2:23.
Knoweth the mind of the Spirit. By φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος is meant the meaning, intention of the Spirit, what he means by these unutterable groanings. By Spirit must be here understood, as the context requires, the Holy Spirit. It is that Spirit who intercedes for the saints and in them, and who is expressly distinguished from the soul in which he dwells. God is said to know the mind of the Spirit. As the word to know is so often used with the implication of the idea of approval, this may mean, God recognizes or approves of the mind of the Spirit.
"Hic verbi nosse," says Calvin, "adnotanda est proprietas; significat enim, Deum non novos et insolentes illos Spiritus affectus non animadvertere, vel tanquam absurdos rejicere; sed agnoscere, et simul benigne excipere ut agnitos sibi et probatos."
If this be the meaning of the word, then the following ὅτι is causal, and introduces the reason why God thus approves of the mind of the Spirit. It is because the Spirit maketh intercession for the saints κατὰ Θεόν according to God, i.e. agreeably to his will. The desires produced by the Spirit of God himself are, of course, agreeable to the will of God, and secure of being approved and answered. This is the great consolation and support of believers. They know not either what is best for themselves or agreeable to the will of God; but the Holy, Spirit dictates those petitions and excites those desires which are consistent with the divine purposes, and which are directed towards the blessings best suited to our wants. Such prayers are always answered. "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us," 1 John 5:14. But if οἶδε is to be taken in its ordinary sense, then ὅτι is explicative. 'God knows that the Spirit,' etc. Those who adopt this view generally render κατὰ Θεόν towards God, i.e. before God. 'The Spirit intercedes before God for the saints.' In favor of this interpretation of the passage, it is urged that this is the proper place of the word οἶδε and as to the clause κατὰ Θεόν it is said, God's knowing the mind of the Spirit, does not depend on its being according to his will. He would know it whether in accordance with his will or not. This difficulty, however, does not exist if οἶδε means 'he recognizes and approves.' It is making the verse say comparatively little, if it is made to mean simply 'that the Searcher of hearts knows that the Spirit intercedes in his presence (or toward him) for the saints.' The interpretation adopted by our translators, therefore, is to be preferred. It is more to the apostle's purpose if he assigns the reason why God receives the unutterable desires and longings of the heart as true prayer. This indeed is a consolation to believers.
VERSE 28. And we know all things work together for good to them that love God, etc. This may be regarded as virtually, though not formally, an inference from what Paul had taught concerning afflictions. As they are comparatively insignificant, as they call forth the exercises of hope, and give occasion for the kind interposition of the Holy Spirit, far from being inconsistent with our salvation, they contribute to our good. It seems, however, more natural to consider the apostle as presenting the consideration contained in this verse, as an additional reason why the afflictions of this life are not inconsistent with our being the sons of God. These afflictions are real blessings.
All things, as is usually the case with such general expressions, is to be limited to the things spoken of in the context, i.e. the sufferings of the present time. See 1 Corinthians 2:15, where the spiritual man is said to understand "all things;" Colossians 1:20, where Christ is said to reconcile "all things unto God;" and Ephesians 1:10, with many other similar passages. Of course it is not intended that other events, besides afflictions, do not work together for the good of Christians, but merely that the apostle is here speaking of the sufferings of believers.
"Tenendum est Paulum non nisi de rebus adversis loqui: acsi dixisset Divinitus sic temperari quaecunque sanctis accidunt, ut, quod mundus noxium esse putat, exitus utile esse demonstret. Nam tauletsi verum est, quod ait Augustinus, peccata quoque sua, ordinante Dei providentia, sanctis adeo non nocere, ut potius eorum saluti inserviant; ad hunc tamen locum non pertinet, ubi de cruce agitur." Calvin.
Those to whom afflictions are a real blessing are described, first, as those who love God; and secondly, as those who are called according to his purpose. The former of these clauses describes the character of the persons intended, they love God, which is a comprehensive expression for all the exercises of genuine religion. The latter clause declares a fact, with regard to all such which has a most important bearing on the apostle's great object in this chapter, they are called according to his purpose. The word called, as remarked above, (Romans 1:7,) is never, in the epistles of the New Testament, applied to those who are the recipients of the mere external invitation of the gospel. It always means effectually called, i.e. it is always applied to those who are really brought to accept of the blessings to which they are invited. 1 Corinthians 1:24, "But to those who are called," i.e., to true Christians. Jude 1:1, "To those who are sanctified by God the Father, and are preserved in Jesus Christ, and called," 1 Corinthians 1:2, etc. The word is, therefore, often equivalent with chosen, as in the phrase "called an apostle," 1 Corinthians 1:1; Romans 1:1; and "called of Jesus Christ," Romans 1:6. And thus in the Old Testament, "Hearken unto me, O Jacob, and Israel my called," Isaiah 48:12; see Isaiah 42:6, 49:1, 51:2. Those who love God, therefore, are those whom he hath chosen and called by his grace to a participation of the Redeemer's kingdom. This call is not according to the merits of men, but according to the divine purpose. "Who hath saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1:11; Romans 9:11. The design of the apostle, in the introduction of this clause, seems to have been twofold. First, to show, according to his usual manner, that the fact that some men love God is to be attributed to his sovereign grace, and not to themselves; and, secondly, that if men are called, according to the eternal purpose of God, their salvation is secure. By this latter idea, this clause is associated with the passage that follows, and with the general object of the chapter. That the calling of men does secure their salvation, is proved in verses 29, 30.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. True Christians are the sons of God, objects of his affection, partakers of his moral nature, and heirs of his kingdom, ver. 14.
2. The relation of God to us is necessarily the counterpart of ours to him. If we feel as friends to him, he feels as a friend towards us; if our sentiments are filial, his are parental, ver. 15.
3. God who is everywhere present and active, manifests his presence, and communicates with his creatures in a manner accordant with their nature, although in a way that is inscrutable, ver. 16.
4. Assurance of salvation has a twofold foundation, the experience of those affections which are the evidences of true piety, and the witness of the Holy Spirit. The latter can never be separated from the former; for the Spirit can never testify to what is not the truth. He can never assure an enemy that he is a child of God, ver. 16.
5. Union with Christ is the source of all our blessings of justification and sanctification, as taught in the previous chapters, and of salvation, as taught in this, ver. 17.
6. Afflictions are not inconsistent with the divine favor, nor with our being the sons of God, vers. 18-25.
7. The future glory of the saints must be inconceivably great, if the whole creation, from the beginning of the world, groans and longs for its manifestation, vers. 19-23.
8. The curse consequent on the fall has affected the state of the external world. The consummation of the work of redemption may be attended with its regeneration, vers. 20-22.
9. The present influences of the Spirit are first fruits of the inheritance of the saints; the same in kind with the blessings of the future state, though less in degree. They are a pledge of future blessedness, and always produce an earnest longing for the fruition of the full inheritance, ver. 23.
10. As, for wise reasons, salvation is not immediately consequent on regeneration, hope, which is the joyful expectation of future good, becomes the duty, solace, and support of the Christian, vers. 24, 25.
11. The Holy Spirit is our Paraclete (John 14:16) or advocate, we are his clients, we know not how to plead our own cause, but he dictates to us what we ought to say. This office of the Spirit ought to be recognized, and gratefully acknowledged, ver. 26.
12. Prayer, to be acceptable, must be according to the will of God, and it always is so when it is dictated or excited by the Holy Spirit, ver. 27.
13. All events are under the control of God; and even the greatest afflictions are productive of good to those who love him, ver. 28.
14. The calling or conversion of men, involving so many of their free acts, is a matter of divine purpose, and it occurs in consequence of its being so, ver 28.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. If God, by his Spirit, condescends to dwell in us, it is our highest duty to allow ourselves to be governed or led by him, vers. 12, 13.
2. It is a contradiction in terms to profess to be the sons of God, if destitute of the filial feelings of confidence, affection, and reverence, ver. 15.
3. A spirit of fear, so far from being an evidence of piety, is an evidence of the contrary. The filial spirit is the genuine spirit of religion, ver. 15.
4. Assurance of hope is not fanatical, but is an attainment which every Christian should make. If the witness of men is received, the witness of God is greater. As the manifestation of God's love to us is made in exciting our love towards him, so the testimony of his Spirit with ours, that we are the sons of God, is made when our filial feelings are in lively exercise, ver. 16.
5. Christians ought neither to expect nor wish to escape suffering with Christ, if they are to be partakers of his glory. The former is a preparation for the latter, ver. 17.
6. The afflictions of this life, though in themselves not joyous but grievous, are worthy of little regard in comparison with the glory that shall be revealed in us. To hear these trials properly, we should regard them as part of the heritage of the sons of God, ver. 18.
7. As the present state of things is one of bondage to corruption, as there is a dreadful pressure of sin and misery on the whole creation, we should not regard the world as our home, but desire deliverance from this bondage, and introduction into the liberty of the children of God, vers. 19-22.
8. It is characteristic of genuine piety to have exalted conceptions of future blessedness, and earnest longings after it. Those, therefore, who are contented with the world and indifferent about heaven, can hardly possess the first fruits of the Spirit, ver. 23.
9. Hope and patience are always united. If we have a well-founded hope of heaven, then do we with patience and fortitude wait for it. This believing resignation and joyful expectation of the promises, are peculiarly pleasing in the sight of God and honorable to religion, vers. 24, 25.
10. How wonderful the condescension of the Holy Spirit! How great his kindness in teaching us, as a parent his children, how to pray and what to pray for! How abundant the consolation thus afforded to the pious in the assurance that their prayers shall be heard, vers. 26, 27.
11. Those who are in Christ, who love God, may repose in perfect security beneath the shadow of his wings. All things shall work together for their good, because all things are under the control of him who has called them to the possession of eternal life according to his own purpose, ver. 28.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
This section contains the exhibition of two additional arguments in favor of the safety of believers. The first of these is founded on the decree or purpose of God, vers. 29, 30; and the second on his infinite and unchanging love, vers. 31-39. In his description of those with regard to whom all things shall work together for good, Paul had just said that they are such who are called or converted in execution of a previous purpose of God, ver. 28. If this is the case, the salvation of believers is secure, because the plan on which God acts is connected in all its parts; whom he foreknows, he predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies. Those, therefore, who are called, shall certainly be saved, vers. 29, 30. Secondly, if God is for us, who can be against us? If God so loved us as to give his Son for us, he will certainly save us, vers. 31, 32. This love has already secured our justification, and has made abundant provision for the supply of all our wants, vers. 33, 34.
The triumphant conclusion from all these arguments, that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ, but that we shall be more than conquerors over all enemies and difficulties, is given in vers. 35-39.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
VERSE 29. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate, etc. The connection of this verse with the preceding, and the force of for; appears from what has already been said. Believers are called in accordance with a settled plan and purpose of God, for whom he calls he had previously predestined: and as all the several steps or stages of our salvation are included in this plan of the unchanging God, if we are predestinated and called, we shall be justified and glorified. Or the connecting idea is this: All things must work together for good to those who love God, for the plan of God cannot fail; those whom he has called into this state of reconciliation, whom he has made to love him, he will assuredly bring to the glory prepared for his people.
Whom he did foreknow. As the words to know and foreknow are used in three different senses, applicable to the present passage, there is considerable diversity of opinion which should be preferred. The word may express prescience simply, according to its literal meaning; or, as to know is often to approve and love, it may express the idea of peculiar affection in this case; or it may mean to select or determine upon. Among those who adopt one or the other of these general views, there is still a great diversity as to the manner in which they understand the passage. These opinions are too numerous to be here recited.
As the literal meaning of the word to foreknow gives no adequate sense, inasmuch as all men are the objects of the divine prescience, whereas the apostle evidently designed to express by the word something that could be asserted only of a particular class; those who adopt this meaning here supply something to make the sense complete. Who he foreknew would repent, and believe, or who would not resist his divine influence, or some such idea. There are two objections to this manner of explaining the passage.
1. The addition of this clause is entirely gratuitous; and, if unnecessary, it is, of course, improper. There is no such thing said, and, therefore, it should not be assumed, without necessity, to be implied.
2. It is in direct contradiction to the apostle's doctrine. It makes the ground of our calling and election to be something in us, our works; whereas Paul says that such is not the ground of our being chosen.
"Who hath called us not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, etc.," 2 Timothy 1:9, and Romans 9:11, where the contrary doctrine is not only asserted, but proved and defended. To say that faith as distinguished from works is what is foreseen, and constitutes the ground of election, does not help the matter. For faith is a work or act, and it is the gift of God, the result or effect of election, and therefore not its ground.
The second and third interpretations do not essentially differ. The one is but a modification of the other; for whom God peculiarly loves, he does thereby distinguish from others, which is in itself a selecting or choosing of them from among others. The usage of the word is favorable to either modification of this general idea of preferring. "The people which he foreknew," i.e., loved or selected, Romans 11:2; "Who verily was foreordained (Gr. foreknown) i.e., fixed upon, chosen before the foundation of the world," 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Timothy 2:19; John 10:14, 15; see also Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 1:2. The idea, therefore, obviously is, that those whom God peculiarly loved, and by thus loving, distinguished or selected from the rest of mankind; or to express both ideas in one word, those whom he elected he predestined, etc.
It is evident, on the one hand, that πρόγνωσις expresses something more than the prescience of which all men and all events are the objects, and, on the other, something different from the προορισμός (predestination) expressed by the following word: "Whom he foreknew, them he also predestinated." The predestination follows, and is grounded on the foreknowledge. The foreknowledge therefore expresses the act of cognition or recognition, the fixing, so to speak, the mind upon, which involves the idea of selection. If we look over a number of objects with the view of selecting some of them for a definite purpose, the first act is to fix the mind on some to the neglect of the others, and the second is to destine them to the proposed end. So God is represented as looking on the fallen mass of men, and fixing on some whom he predestines to salvation. This is the πρόγνωσις, the foreknowledge, of which the apostle here speaks. It is the knowing, fixing upon, or selecting those who are to be predestinated to be conformed to the image of the Son of God. Even De Wette says, "Der Begriff der unbedingten Gnadenwahl liegt hier klar vor," (the idea of sovereign election is here clearly presented.)
He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. To predestinate is to destine or appoint beforehand, as the original word is used in Acts 4:28, "To do whatsoever thy hand and counsel determined before to be done;" "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children," Ephesians 1:5; "Being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will," Ephesians 1:11. In all the cases in which this predestination is spoken of, the idea is distinctly recognized, that the ground of the choice which it implies is not in us. We are chosen in Christ, or according to the free purpose of God, etc. This is a fore-ordination, a determination which existed in the divine mind long prior to the occurrence of the event, even before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4; so that the occurrences in time are the manifestations of the eternal purpose of God, and the execution of the plan of which they form apart.
The end to which those whom God has chosen are predestined, is conformity to the image of his Son, i.e., that they might be like his Son in character and destiny. He hath chosen us "that we should be holy and without blame before him," Ephesians 1:4; 4:24. "He hath predestined us to the adoption," i.e. to the state of sons, Ephesians 1:5. "As we have born the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly," 1 Corinthians 15:49; see Philippians 3:21; 1 John 3:2. The words συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ, express not only the general idea that believers are to be like Christ, but more definitely, that what Christ is we are to be; as He is υἱός; we are υἱοί; as He was ἐν μορφῇ Θεοῦ we are to be σύμμορφοι; as He assumed our nature, and thereby purified and exalted it, we are to partake of that purity and glory. We are to have the same μορφή (form) as the εἱκών of Christ has—resemble him as the image answers to the original. As Paul, in verse 17, had spoken of our suffering with Christ, and in the subsequent passage was principally employed in showing that though in this respect we must be like Christ, it was not inconsistent with our being sons and heirs, so here, when we are said to be conformed to the image of Christ, the idea of our hearing the same cross is not to be excluded. We are to be like our Savior in moral character, in our present sufferings and future glory. As this conformity to Christ includes our moral likeness to him, and as this embraces all that is good in us, it is clear that no supposed excellence originating from our own resources, can be the ground of our being chosen as God's people, since this excellence is included in the end to which we are predestined.
"I remark here in passing," says Olshausen, "that according to Paul's doctrine, there is a praedestinatio sanctorum in the strict sense of the word; that is, that God does not foreknow those who by their own decision will become holy, but he himself creates that decision in them. In προγινώσκειν the divine knowledge, and in προορίζειν the divine will, (both of which are included in the πρόθεσις,) are expressed."
That he might be the first-born among many brethren. This clause may express the design, or merely the result of what had just been said. 'God predestinated us to be sons, in order that Christ might be,' etc., or 'He made us his sons, hence Christ is,' etc. The former is on every account to be preferred. It is not merely an unintended result, but the great end contemplated in the predestination of God's people. That end is the glory and exaltation of Christ. The purpose of God in the salvation of men, was not mainly that men should be holy and happy, but that through their holiness and happiness his glory, in the person of the Son, should be displayed, in the ages to come, to principalities and powers. Christ, therefore, is the central point in the history of the universe. His glory, as the glory of God in the highest form of its manifestation, is the great end of creation and redemption. And this end, the apostle teaches, is accomplished by making him the, first-born among many brethren, that is, by causing him to stand as the first-born, the head and chief, among and over that countless multitude who through him are made the sons of God.
"Igitur," says Calvin, "sicut primogenitus familiae nomen sustinet; ita Christus in sublimi gradu locatur, non modo ut honore emineat inter fideles, sed etiam ut communi fraternitatis nota sub se omnes contineat."
VERSE 30. Moreover, whom he did predestinate, them he also called. Those whom he had thus foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son in moral character, in suffering, and in future glory, he effectually calls, i.e. leads by the external invitation of the gospel, and by the efficacious operation of his grace, to the end to which they are destined. That the calling here spoken of is not the mere external call of the gospel, is evident both from the usage of the word, and from the necessity of the case; see 1 Corinthians 1:9, "God is faithful by whom ye were called to the fellowship of his Son," i.e. effectually brought into union with him. In the same chapter, ver. 24, "To those which are called, Christ the power of God," etc. The called are here expressly distinguished from the rejecters of the external invitation. 1 Corinthians 7:15, 18, in which chapter calling is repeatedly put for effectual conversion, "Is any man called, being circumcised," etc. Hebrews 9:15, "That they which are called may receive the promise of eternal inheritance." Romans 9:12; Ephesians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:12, and many similar passages. This use of the word, thus common in the New Testament, is obviously necessary here, because the apostle is speaking of a call which is peculiar to those who are finally saved. Whom he calls he justifies and glorifies; see verse 28.
Whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified. The aorist here used may express the idea of frequency. Whom he calls, he is wont to justify; and whom he is wont to justify, is he accustomed to glorify. So that the meaning is the same as though the present tense had been used, 'Whom he calls, he justifies,' etc.; see James 1:11; 1 Peter 1:24, where the same tense is rendered as the presents "The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away." Or, as this use of the aorist is doubtful, or at least unusual, that tense is employed, because Paul is speaking of that God, who sees the end from the beginning, and in whose decree and purpose all future events are comprehended and fixed; so that in predestining us, he at the same time, in effect, called, justified, and glorified us, as all these were included in his purpose.
The justification here spoken of, is doubtless that of which the apostle has been speaking throughout the epistle, the regarding and treating sinners as just, for the sake of the righteousness of Christ. The blessings of grace are never separated from each other. Election, calling, justification, and salvation are indissolubly united; and, therefore, he who has clear evidence of his being called, has the same evidence of his election and final salvation. This is the very idea the apostle means to present for the consolation and encouragement of believers. They have no cause for despondency if the children of God, and called according to his purpose, because nothing can prevent their final salvation.
VERSE 31. What shall we say to these things? That is, what is the inference from what has hitherto been said?
If God be for us, if he has delivered us from the law of sin and death, if he has renewed us by his spirit which dwells within us, it he recognizes us as his children and his heirs, and has predestinated us to holiness and glory, who can be against us? If God's love has led to all the good just specified, what have we to fear for the future? He who spared not his own Son, will freely give us all things. This verse shows clearly what has been the apostle's object from the beginning of the chapter. He wished to demonstrate that to those who accede to the plan of salvation which he taught, i.e. to those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no ground of apprehension; their final salvation is fully secured. The conclusion of the chapter is a recapitulation of all his former arguments, or rather the reduction of them to one, which comprehends them all in their fullest force; God IS FOR US. He, as our Judge, is satisfied; as our Father, he loves us; as the supreme and almighty Controller of events, who works all things after the counsel of his own will, he has determined to save us; and as that Being, whose love is as unchanging as it is infinite, he allows nothing to separate his children from himself.
It has been objected, that if Paul had intended to teach these doctrines, he would have said that apostasy and sin cannot interfere with the salvation of believers. But what is salvation, but deliverance from the guilt and power of sin? It is, therefore, included in the very purpose and promise of salvation, that its objects shall be preserved from apostasy and deadly sins. This is the end and essence of salvation. And, therefore, to make Paul argue that God will save us if we do not apostatize, is to make him say, those shall be saved who are not lost. According to the apostle's doctrine, holiness is so essential and prominent a part of salvation, that it is not so much a means to an end as the very end itself. It is that to which we are predestinated and called, and therefore if the promise of salvation does not include the promise of holiness, it includes nothing. Hence, to ask whether, if one of the called should apostasies and live in sin, he would still be saved, is to ask, whether he will be saved if he is not saved. Nor can these doctrines be perverted to licentiousness without a complete denial of their nature. For they not only represent sin and salvation as two things which ought not to be united, but as utterly irreconcilable and contradictory.
VERSE 32. He that spared not his own Son, etc. That ground of confidence and security which includes all others, is the love of God; and that exhibition of divine love which surpasses and secures all others, is the gift of His Own Son. Paul having spoken of Christians as being God's sons by adoption, was led to designate Christ as his own peculiar Son, in a sense in which neither angels (Hebrews 1:5) nor men can be so called. That this is the meaning of the phrase is evident,
1. Because this is its proper force; own Son being opposed to adopted sons. An antithesis, expressed or implied, is always involved in the use of the word ἴδιος, see Acts 2:6; Romans 11:24, 14:4; Titus 1:12. The Jews, we are told, took up stones to stone our Lord, because πατέρα ἴδιον ἔλεγε τὸν Θεόν, thus making himself equal with God. Christ is in such a sense the Son of God, that he is of one nature with him, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.
2. Because the context requires it, as Paul had spoken of those who were sons in a different sense just before.
3. Because this apostle, and the other sacred writers, designate Christ as Son of God in the highest sense, as partaker of the divine nature; see Romans 1:4.
But delivered him up for us all. He was delivered up to death; see Galatians 1:4; Romans 4:25; Isaiah 53:6, 38:13 (in the LXX.,) and Matthew 10:21. For us all; not merely for our benefit, but in our place. This idea, however, is not expressed by the peculiar force of the preposition ὑπέρ but is implied from the nature of the case. The benefit secured by a sacrifice is secured by substitution. It is offered for the benefit of the offender because it is offered in his place. There is no restriction or limitation to be put on the word all in this verse, other than that which the context and the analogy of Scripture imposes. God, says Paul, gave up his Son for us all; whether he means all rational creatures, or all men, or all those whom he determined thereby to redeem, and whom he had foreknown and predestinated to eternal life, depends on what the Scripture elsewhere teaches on the subject.
How shall he not also (καί) with him freely give us all things. If God has done the greater, he will not leave the less undone. The gift of Christ includes all other gifts. If God so loved us as to give his Son for us, he will certainly give the Holy Spirit to render that gift effectual. This is presented as a ground of confidence. The believer is assured of salvation, not because he is assured of his own constancy, but simply because he is assured of the immutability of the divine love, and he is assured of its immutability because he is assured of its greatness. Infinite love cannot change. A love which spared not the eternal Son of God, but freely gave him up, cannot fail of its object. "Christus non nudus aut inanis ad nos missus est; sed coelestibus omnibus thesauris refertus, ne quid eum possidentibus ad plenam felicitatem desit." Calvin.
VERSE 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God elect? This and the following verse show how fully the security of believers is provided for by the plan of redemption. What is it they have to fear under the government of a just and powerful God? There is nothing to be dreaded but sin; if that be pardoned and removed, there is nothing left to fear. In the strongest manner possible, the apostle declares that the sins of believers are pardoned, and shows the ground on which that pardon rests. To them, therefore, there can be neither a disquieting accusation nor condemnation.
Who can lay any thing? τίς ἐγκαλέσει; the word ἐγκαλεῖν means in jus vocare, to summon before the bar of justice. The question is in the form of a challenge, and implies the strongest confidence that no accuser against God's elect can appear. If the law of God be satisfied, "the strength of sin," its condemning power, is destroyed. Even conscience, though it upbraids, does not terrify. It produces the ingenuous sorrow of children, and not the despairing anguish of the convict, because it sees that all the ends of punishment are fully answered in the death of Christ, who bore our sins in his own body on the tree.
God's elect, i.e., those whom God has chosen; see ver. 29. The word elect is sometimes used in a secondary sense for beloved, which idea is implied in its literal sense, as those chosen are those who are peculiarly beloved. This sense may be given to it in 1 Peter 2:4, "elect and precious" may be beloved and precious. And so in a multitude of cases it were optional with a writer to say chosen or beloved, as the one implies the other. But this does not prove that chosen means beloved, or that the idea of choice is to be excluded from the idea of the word.
The elect are those whom God has chosen out of the world to be the members of his family or kingdom; just as under the Old Testament the Hebrews, whom he had chosen to be his peculiar people, were his elect. Men may dispute as to what the elect are chosen to, and why some are chosen and not others. But there seems to be no ground for dispute whether "the elect" mean the chosen. This passage, however, proves that those who are elect, and whose election has become recognized, are in a state in which they are free from condemnation. No one can lay any thing to their charge. The demands of justice as regards them have been satisfied. This is not true of those who are chosen merely to church privileges. There is an election, therefore, unto grace and salvation. The elect are safe. This is the grand theme of this jubilant chapter.
It is God who justifieth, Θεὸς ὁ δικαιῶν. Editors and commentators are about equally divided on the question whether this and the following clauses should be taken interrogatively or affirmatively. If the former, the idea is, that as God is the being against whom we have sinned, and who alone has the administration of justice in his hands, if he does not accuse there can be no accuser. Who shall lay any thing against the elect of God? Shall God, who justifies them? In favor of this view is the fact, that the questions in ver. 32, and also in ver. 35, are answered by questions, and hence the questions in vers. 33, 34, are most naturally so answered. Nevertheless, the impossibility of any accusation being sustained against the elect of God, is better expressed by the affirmation. It is God who is their justifier. If he justifies, who can condemn? Besides, according to the current representation of Scripture, God is the judge, not the accuser. To justify, is to declare the claims of justice satisfied. If God, the supreme judge, makes this declaration, it must be true, and it must stop every mouth. No rational creature, no enlightened conscience, can call for the punishment of those whom God justifies. If justice is not satisfied, there can be no justification, no peace of conscience, no security either for salvation or for the moral government of God. The Bible knows nothing of mere pardon. There can be no pardon except on the ground of satisfaction of justice. It is by declaring a man just, (that is, that justice in relation to him is satisfied,) that he is freed from the penalty of the law, and restored to the favor of God.
VERSE 34.Who is he that condemneth? i.e., no one can condemn. In support of this assertion there are, in this verse, four conclusive reasons presented; the death of Christ, his resurrection, his exaltation, and his intercession.
It is Christ that died. By his death, as an atonement for our sins, all ground of condemnation is removed. The death of Christ could not be a proof that the believer cannot be condemned, unless his death removed the ground of condemnation; and it could not remove the ground of condemnation, unless it satisfied the demands of justice. His death, therefore, was a satisfaction, and not merely an exhibition of love, or a didactic symbol meant to impress some moral truth.
Yea, rather, that is risen again. The resurrection of Christ, as the evidence of the sacrifice of his death being accepted, and of the validity of all his claims, is a much more decisive proof of the security of all who trust in him, than his death could be. See on Romans 1:4: 4:25: Acts 17:31; 1 Corinthians 15:17, etc.
Who is even at the right hand of God, i.e., is associated with God in his universal dominion. Psalm 110:1, "Sit thou on my right hand," i.e., share my throne; Ephesians 1:20; Revelation 3:21. "As I also overcame and am set down with my Father in his throne." Hebrews 1:3, "Who sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." From these and other passages in their connection, it is evident that Christ is exalted to universal dominion, all power in heaven and earth is given into his hands. If this is the case, how great the security it affords the believer! He who is engaged to effect his salvation is the Director of all events, and of all worlds.
Who also maketh intercession for us, i.e., who acts as our advocate, pleads our cause before God, presents those considerations which secure for us pardon and the continued supply of the divine grace; see on ver. 26; Hebrews 7:25; 9:24; 1 John 2:1. Christ, as seated at the right hand of God, and invested with universal dominion, is able to save: his interceding for us is the evidence that he is willing to save—willing not only in the sense of being disposed to, but in the sense of purposing. He intends to save those who put their trust in him, and therefore in their behalf he presents before God the merit of his mediatorial work, and urges their salvation as the reward promised him in the covenant of redemption. He is our patron, in the Roman sense of the word, one who undertakes our case; an advocate, whom the Father heareth always. How complete, then, the security of those for whom he pleads! Of course this language is figurative; the meaning is, that Christ continues since his resurrection and exaltation to secure for his people the benefits of his death, every thing comes from God through him, and for his sake.
VERSE 35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? This is the last step in the climax of the apostle's argument; the very summit of the mount of confidence, whence he looks down on his enemies as powerless, and forward and upward with full assurance of a final and abundant triumph. No one can accuse, no one can condemn, no one can separate us from the love of Christ. This last assurance gives permanency to the value of the other two.
The love of Christ is clearly Christ's love towards us, and not ours towards him. Paul is speaking of the great love of God towards us as manifested in the gift of his Son, and of the love of Christ as exhibited in his dying, rising, and interceding for us. This love, which is so great, he says is unchangeable. Besides, the apostle's object in the whole chapter is to console and confirm the confidence of believers. The interpretation just mentioned is not in accordance with this object. It is no ground of confidence to assert, or even to feel, that we will never forsake Christ, but it is the strongest ground of assurance to be convinced that his love will never change. And, moreover, verse 39 requires this interpretation; for there Paul expresses the same sentiment in language which cannot be misunderstood. "No creature," he says, "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus." This is evidently God's love towards us. The great difficulty with many Christians is that they cannot persuade themselves that Christ (or God) loves them; and the reason why they cannot feel confident of the love of God, is, that they know they do not deserve his love, on the contrary, that they are in the highest degree unlovely. How can the infinitely pure God love those who are defiled with sin, who are proud, selfish, discontented, ungrateful, disobedient? This, indeed, is hard to believe. But it is the very thing we are required to believe, not only as the condition of peace and hope, but as the condition of salvation. If our hope of God's mercy and love is founded on our own goodness or attractiveness, it is a false hope. We must believe that his love is gratuitous, mysterious, without any known or conceivable cause, certainly without the cause of loveliness in its object; that it is, in short, what it is so often declared to be in the Bible, analogous to the love of a parent for his child. A father's or mother's love is independent of the attractiveness of its object, and often in spite of its deformity.
Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, etc. This is merely an amplification of the preceding idea. Nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ, neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, etc. That is, whatever we may be called upon to suffer in this life, nothing can deprive us of the love of him who died for us, and who now lives to plead our cause in heaven; and, therefore, these afflictions, and all other difficulties, are enemies we may despise.
"Sicut enim nebulae quamvis liquidum solis conspectum obscurent, non tamen ejus fulgore in totum nos privant: sic Deus in rebus adversis per caliginem emittit gratiae suae radios, nequa tentatio desperatione nos obruat: imo fides nostra promissionibus Dei tanquam alis fulta sursum in coelos per media obstacula penetrare debet."—Calvin.
VERSE 36. As it is written, for thy sake we are killed all the day long, etc. A quotation from Psalm 44:22, agreeably to the Septuagint translation. The previous verse of course implied that believers should be exposed to many afflictions, to famine, nakedness, and the sword; this, Paul would say, is in accordance with the experience of the pious in all ages. We suffer, as it is recorded of the Old Testament saints, that they suffered.
VERSE 37. Nay, in all these things are more than conquerors, etc. This verse is connected with the 35th. 'So far from these afflictions separating us from the love of Christ, they are more than conquered.' That is, they are not only deprived of all power to do us harm, they minister to our good, they swell the glory of our victory.
Through him that loved us. The triumph which the apostle looked for was not to be effected by his own strength or perseverance, but by the grace and power of the Redeemer. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
VERSES 38, 39. In these verses the confidence of the apostle is expressed in the strongest language. He heaps words together in the effort to set forth fully the absolute inability of all created things, separately or united, to frustrate the purpose of God, or to turn away his love from those whom he has determined to save.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, etc. It is somewhat doubtful how far the apostle intended to express distinct ideas by the several words here used. The enumeration is by some considered as expressing the general idea that nothing in the universe can injure believers, the detail being designed merely as amplification. This, however, is not very probable. The former view is to be preferred.
Neither death. That is, though cut off in this world, their connection with Christ is not thereby destroyed. "They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand," John 10:28.
Nor life, neither its blandishments nor its trials. "Whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord. So that living or dying we are the Lord's." Romans 14:8.
Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers. Principalities and powers are by many understood here to refer to the authorities of this world as distinguished from angels. But to this it may be objected, that Paul frequently uses these terms in connection to designate the different orders of spiritual beings, Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16; and secondly, that corresponding terms were in common use among the Jews in this sense. It is probable, from the nature of the passage, that this clause is to be taken generally, without any specific reference to either good or bad angels as such. 'No superhuman power, no angel, however mighty, shall ever be able to separate us from the love of God.'
Neither things present, nor things to come. Nothing in this life, nor in the future; no present or future event, etc.
VERSE 39. Nor height, nor depth. These words have been very variously explained. That interpretation which seems, on the whole, most consistent with scriptural usage and the context, is that which makes the terms equivalent to heaven and earth. 'Nothing in heaven or earth;' see Ephesians 4:8, Isaiah 7:11, "Ask it either in the depth or the height above," etc., etc.
Nor any other creature. Although the preceding enumeration had been so minute, the apostle, as if to prevent despondency having the possibility of a foothold, adds this all-comprehending specification, no created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God. This love of God, which is declared to be thus unchangeable, is extended towards us only on account of our connection with Christ, and therefore the apostle adds, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord; see Ephesians 1:6, 2 Timothy 1:9.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. God chooses certain individuals and predestinates them to eternal life. The ground of this choice is his own sovereign pleasure; the end to which the elect are predestinated, is conformity to Jesus Christ, both in character and destiny, ver. 29.
2. Those who are thus chosen shall certainly be saved, ver. 30.
3. The only evidence of election is effectual calling, that is, the production of holiness. And the only evidence of the genuineness of this call and the certainty of our perseverance, is a patient continuance in well doing, vers. 29, 30.
4. The love of God, and not human merit or power, is the proper ground of confidence. This love is infinitely great, as is manifested by the gift of God's own Son; and it is unchangeable, as the apostle strongly asserts, verses 31-39.
5. The gift of Christ is not the result of the mere general love of God to the human family, but also of special love to his own people, ver. 32.
6. Hope of pardon and eternal life should rest on the death, the resurrection, universal dominion, and intercession of the Son of God, ver. 34.
7. Trials and afflictions of every kind have been the portion of the people of God in all ages; as they cannot destroy the love of Christ towards us, they ought not to shake our love towards him, ver. 35.
8. The whole universe, with all that it contains, as far as it is good, is the friend and ally of the Christian; as far as it is evil, it is a more than conquered foe, vers. 35-39.
9. The love of God, infinite and unchangeable as it is, is manifested to sinners only through Jesus Christ our Lord, ver. 39.
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans
1. The plan of redemption, while it leaves no room for despondency, affords no pretense for presumption. Those whom God loves he loves unchangeably; but it is not on the ground of their peculiar excellence, nor can this love be extended towards those who live in sin, vers. 29-39.
2. As there is a beautiful harmony and necessary connection between the several doctrines of grace, between election, predestination, calling, justification, and glorification, so must there be a like harmony in the character of the Christian. He cannot experience the joy and confidence flowing from his election, without the humility which the consideration of its being gratuitous must produce; nor can he have the peace of one who is justified, without the holiness of one who is called, vers. 29, 30.
3. As Christ is the first born or head among many brethren, all true Christians must love him supremely, and each other as members of the same family. Unless we have this love, we do not belong to this sacred brotherhood, ver. 29.
4. If the love of God is so great and constant, it is a great sin to distrust or doubt it, vers. 30-39.
5. Believers need not be concerned if they are condemned by the world, since God justifies them, vers. 33, 34.
6. If God spared not his own Son, in order to effect our salvation, what sacrifice on our part can be considered great, as a return for such have, or as a means of securing the salvation of others, ver. 32.
7. The true method to drive away despondency, is believing apprehensions of the scriptural grounds of hope, viz., the love of God, the death of Christ, his resurrection, his universal dominion, and his intercession, ver. 34.
8. Though the whole universe were encamped against the solitary Christian, he would still come off more than conqueror, vers. 35-39.
9. Afflictions and trials are not to be fled from or avoided, but overcome, ver. 37.
10. All strength to endure and to conquer comes to us through him that loved us. Without him we can do nothing, ver. 37.
11. How wonderful, how glorious, how secure is the gospel! Those who are in Christ Jesus are as secure as the love of God, the merit, power, and intercession of Christ can make them. They are hedged around with mercy. They are enclosed in the arms of everlasting love. "Now unto Him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen!"
—Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans