Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
Ro 8:1-39. Conclusion of the Whole Argument—The Glorious Completeness of Them That Are in Christ Jesus.
In this surpassing chapter the several streams of the preceding argument meet and flow in one "river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," until it seems to lose itself in the ocean of a blissful eternity.
First: The Sanctification of Believers (Ro 8:1-13).
1. There is therefore now, &c.—referring to the immediately preceding context [Olshausen, Philippi, Meyer, Alford, &c.]. The subject with which the seventh chapter concludes is still under consideration. The scope of Ro 8:1-4 is to show how "the law of sin and death" is deprived of its power to bring believers again into bondage, and how the holy law of God receives in them the homage of a living obedience [Calvin, Fraser, Philippi, Meyer, Alford, &c.].
no condemnation: to them which are in Christ Jesus—As Christ, who "knew no sin," was, to all legal effects, "made sin for us," so are we, who believe in Him, to all legal effects, "made the righteousness of God in Him" (2Co 5:21); and thus, one with Him in the divine reckoning. there is to such "NO CONDEMNATION." (Compare Joh 3:18; 5:24; Ro 5:18, 19). But this is no mere legal arrangement: it is a union in life; believers, through the indwelling of Christ's Spirit in them, having one life with Him, as truly as the head and the members of the same body have one life.
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit—The evidence of manuscripts seems to show that this clause formed no part of the original text of this verse, but that the first part of it was early introduced, and the second later, from Ro 8:4, probably as an explanatory comment, and to make the transition to Ro 8:2 easier.
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free—rather, "freed me"—referring to the time of his conversion, when first he believed.
from the law of sin and death—It is the Holy Ghost who is here called "the Spirit of life," as opening up in the souls of believers a fountain of spiritual life (see on Joh 7:38, 39); just as He is called "the Spirit of truth," as "guiding them into all truth" (Joh 16:13), and "the Spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (Isa 11:2), as the inspirer of these qualities. And He is called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," because it is as members of Christ that He takes up His abode in believers, who in consequence of this have one life with their Head. And as the word "law" here has the same meaning as in Ro 7:23, namely, "an inward principle of action, operating with the fixedness and regularity of a law," it thus appears that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" here means, "that new principle of action which the Spirit of Christ has opened up within us—the law of our new being." This "sets us free," as soon as it takes possession of our inner man, "from the law of sin and death" that is, from the enslaving power of that corrupt principle which carries death in its bosom. The "strong man armed" is overpowered by the "stronger than he"; the weaker principle is dethroned and expelled by the more powerful; the principle of spiritual life prevails against and brings into captivity the principle of spiritual death—"leading captivity captive." If this be the apostle's meaning, the whole verse is to this effect: That the triumph of believers over their inward corruption, through the power of Christ's Spirit in them, proves them to be in Christ Jesus, and as such absolved from condemnation. But this is now explained more fully.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
3, 4. For what the law could not do, &c.—a difficult and much controverted verse. But it is clearly, we think, the law's inability to free us from the dominion of sin that the apostle has in view; as has partly appeared already (see on Ro 8:2), and will more fully appear presently. The law could irritate our sinful nature into more virulent action, as we have seen in Ro 7:5, but it could not secure its own fulfilment. How that is accomplished comes now to be shown.
in that it was weak through the flesh—that is, having to address itself to us through a corrupt nature, too strong to be influenced by mere commands and threatenings.
God, &c.—The sentence is somewhat imperfect in its structure, which occasions a certain obscurity. The meaning is, that whereas the law was powerless to secure its own fulfilment for the reason given, God took the method now to be described for attaining that end.
his own Son—This and similar expressions plainly imply that Christ was God's "OWN Son" before He was sent—that is, in His own proper Person, and independently of His mission and appearance in the flesh (see on Ro 8:32 and Ga 4:4); and if so, He not only has the very nature of God, even as a son of his father, but is essentially of the Father, though in a sense too mysterious for any language of ours properly to define (see on the first through fourth chapters). And this peculiar relationship is put forward here to enhance the greatness and define the nature of the relief provided, as coming from beyond the precincts of sinful humanity altogether, yea, immediately from the Godhead itself.
in the likeness of sinful flesh—literally, "of the flesh of sin"; a very remarkable and pregnant expression. He was made in the reality of our flesh, but only in the likeness of its sinful condition. He took our nature as it is in us, compassed with infirmities, with nothing to distinguish Him as man from sinful men, save that He was without sin. Nor does this mean that He took our nature with all its properties save one; for sin is no property of humanity at all, but only the disordered state of our souls, as the fallen family of Adam; a disorder affecting, indeed, and overspreading our entire nature, but still purely our own.
and for sin—literally, "and about sin"; that is, "on the business of sin." The expression is purposely a general one, because the design was not to speak of Christ's mission to atone for sin, but in virtue of that atonement to destroy its dominion and extirpate it altogether from believers. We think it wrong, therefore, to render the words (as in the Margin) "by a sacrifice for sin" (suggested by the language of the Septuagint and approved by Calvin, &c.); for this sense is too definite, and makes the idea of expiation more prominent than it is.
condemned sin—"condemned it to lose its power over men" [Beza, Bengel, Fraser, Meyer, Tholuck, Philippi, Alford]. In this glorious sense our Lord says of His approaching death (Joh 12:31), "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out," and again (see on Joh 16:11), "When He (the Spirit) shall come, He shall convince the world of … judgment, because the prince of this world is judged," that is, condemned to let go his hold of men, who, through the Cross, shall be emancipated into the liberty and power to be holy.
in the flesh—that is, in human nature, henceforth set free from the grasp of sin.
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
4. That the righteousness of the law—"the righteous demand," "the requirement" [Alford], Or "the precept" of the law; for it is not precisely the word so often used in this Epistle to denote "the righteousness which justifies" (Ro 1:17; 3:21; 4:5, 6; 5:17, 18, 21), but another form of the same word, intended to express the enactment of the law, meaning here, we believe, the practical obedience which the law calls for.
might be fulfilled in us—or, as we say, "realized in us."
who walk—the most ancient expression of the bent of one's life, whether in the direction of good or of evil (Ge 48:15; Ps 1:1; Isa 2:5; Mic 4:5; Eph 4:17; 1Jo 1:6, 7).
not after—that is, according to the dictates of
the flesh, but after the spirit—From Ro 8:9 it would seem that what is more immediately intended by "the spirit" here is our own mind as renewed and actuated by the Holy Ghost.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
5. For they that are after the flesh—that is, under the influence of the fleshly principle.
do mind—give their attention to (Php 3:19).
the things of the flesh, &c.—Men must be under the predominating influence of one or other of these two principles, and, according as the one or the other has the mastery, will be the complexion of their life, the character of their actions.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
6. For—a mere particle of transition here [Tholuck], like "but" or "now."
to be carnally minded—literally, "the mind" or "minding of the flesh" (Margin); that is, the pursuit of fleshly ends.
is death—not only "ends in" [Alford, &c.], but even now "is"; carrying death into its bosom, so that such are "dead while they live" (1Ti 5:6; Eph 2:1, 5) [Philippi].
but to be spiritually minded—"the mind" or "minding of the spirit"; that is, the pursuit of spiritual objects.
is life and peace—not "life" only, in contrast with the "death" that is in the other pursuit, but "peace"; it is the very element of the soul's deepest repose and true bliss.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God—The desire and pursuit of carnal ends is a state of enmity to God, wholly incompatible with true life and peace in the soul.
for it is not subject—"doth not submit itself."
to the law of God, neither indeed can be—In such a state of mind there neither is nor can be the least subjection to the law of God. Many things may be done which the law requires, but nothing either is or can be done because God's law requires it, or purely to please God.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
8. So then—nearly equivalent to "And so."
they that are in—and, therefore, under the government of
the flesh cannot please God—having no obediential principle, no desire to please Him.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you—This does not mean, "if the disposition or mind of God dwell in you"; but "if the Holy Ghost dwell in you" (see 1Co 6:11, 19; 3:16, &c.). (It thus appears that to be "in the spirit" means here to be under the dominion of our own renewed mind; because the indwelling of God's Spirit is given as the evidence that we are "in the spirit").
if any man have not the Spirit of Christ—Again, this does not mean "the disposition or mind of Christ," but the Holy Ghost; here called "the Spirit of Christ," just as He is called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (see on Ro 8:2). It is as "the Spirit of Christ" that the Holy Ghost takes possession of believers, introducing into them all the gracious, dove-like disposition which dwelt in Him (Mt 3:16; Joh 3:34). Now if any man's heart be void, not of such dispositions, but of the blessed Author of them, "the Spirit of Christ."
he is none of his—even though intellectually convinced of the truth of Christianity, and in a general sense influence by its spirit. Sharp, solemn statement this!
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
10, 11. And if Christ be in you—by His indwelling Spirit in virtue of which we have one life with him.
the body—"the body indeed."
is dead because of—"by reason of"
sin; but the spirit is life because—or, "by reason"
of righteousness—The word "indeed," which the original requires, is of the nature of a concession—"I grant you that the body is dead … and so far redemption is incomplete, but," &c.; that is, "If Christ be in you by His indwelling Spirit, though your 'bodies' have to pass through the stage of 'death' in consequence of the first Adam's 'sin,' your spirit is instinct with new and undying 'life,' brought in by the 'righteousness' of the second Adam" [Tholuck, Meyer, and Alford in part, but only Hodge entirely].
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you—that is, "If He dwell in you as the Spirit of the Christ-raising One," or, "in all the resurrection-power which He put forth in raising Jesus."
he that raised up Christ from the dead—Observe the change of name from Jesus, as the historical Individual whom God raised from the dead, to Christ, the same Individual, considered as the Lord and Head of all His members, or of redeemed Humanity [Alford].
shall also quicken—rather, "shall quicken even"
your mortal bodies by—the true reading appears to be "by reason of."
his Spirit that dwelleth in you—"Your bodies indeed are not exempt from the death which sin brought in; but your spirits even now have in them an undying life, and if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, even these bodies of yours, though they yield to the last enemy and the dust of them return to the dust as it was, shall yet experience the same resurrection as that of their living Head, in virtue of the indwelling of same Spirit in you that quickened Him."
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
12, 13. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh—"Once we were sold under sin (Ro 7:14); but now that we have been set free from that hard master and become servants to Righteousness (Ro 6:22), we owe nothing to the flesh, we disown its unrighteous claims and are deaf to its imperious demands." Glorious sentiment!
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
13. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die—in the sense of Ro 6:21.
but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body—(See on Ro 7:23).
ye shall live—in the sense of Ro 6:22. The apostle is not satisfied with assuring them that they are under no obligations to the flesh, to hearken to its suggestions, without reminding them where it will end if they do; and he uses the word "mortify" (put to death) as a kind of play upon the word "die" just before. "If ye do not kill sin, it will kill you." But he tempers this by the bright alternative, that if they do, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, such a course will infallibly terminate in "life" everlasting. And this leads the apostle into a new line of thought, opening into his final subject, the "glory" awaiting the justified believer.
Note, (1) "There can be no safety, no holiness, no happiness, to those who are out of Christ: No "safety," because all such are under the condemnation of the law (Ro 8:1); no holiness, because such only as are united to Christ have the spirit of Christ (Ro 8:9); no happiness, because to be "carnally minded is death" (Ro 8:6)" [Hodge]. (2) The sanctification of believers, as it has its whole foundation in the atoning death, so it has its living spring in the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ (Ro 8:2-4). (3) "The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits, is the only decisive test of character (Ro 8:5)" [Hodge]. (4) No human refinement of the carnal mind will make it spiritual, or compensate for the absence of spirituality. "Flesh" and "spirit" are essentially and unchangeably opposed; nor can the carnal mind, as such, be brought into real subjection to the law of God (Ro 8:5-7). Hence (5) the estrangement of God and the sinner is mutual. For as the sinner's state of mind is "enmity against God" (Ro 8:7), so in this state he "cannot please God" (Ro 8:8). (6) Since the Holy Ghost is, in the same breath, called indiscriminately "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," and "Christ" Himself (as an indwelling life in believers), the essential unity and yet Personal distinctness of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, m the one adorable Godhead must be believed, as the only consistent explanation of such language (Ro 8:9-11). (7) The consciousness of spiritual life in our renewed souls is a glorious assurance of resurrection life in the body also, in virtue of the same quickening Spirit whose inhabitation we already enjoy (Ro 8:11). (8) Whatever professions of spiritual life men may make, it remains eternally true that "if we live after the flesh we shall die," and only "if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body we shall live" (Ro 8:13, and compare Ga 6:7, 8; Eph 5:6; Php 3:18, 19; 1Jo 3:7, 8).
Second: The Sonship of Believers—Their Future Inheritance—The Intercession of the Spirit for Them (Ro 8:14-27).
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, they, &c.—"these are sons of God." Hitherto the apostle has spoken of the Spirit simply as a power through which believers mortify sin: now he speaks of Him as a gracious, loving Guide, whose "leading"—enjoyed by all in whom is the Spirit of God's dear Son—shows that they also are "sons of God."
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
15. For, &c.—"For ye received not (at the time of your conversion) the spirit of bondage," that is, "The spirit ye received was not a spirit of bondage."
to fear—as under the law which "worketh wrath," that is, "Such was your condition before ye believed, living in legal bondage, haunted with incessant forebodings under a sense of unpardoned sin. But it was not to perpetuate that wretched state that ye received the Spirit."
but ye have received—"ye received."
the spirit of adoption, whereby—rather, "wherein."
we cry, Abba, Father—The word "cry" is emphatic, expressing the spontaneousness, the strength, and the exuberance of the final emotions. In Ga 4:6 this cry is said to proceed from the Spirit in us, drawing forth the filial exclamation in our hearts. Here, it is said to proceed from our own hearts under the vitalizing energy of the Spirit, as the very element of the new life in believers (compare Mt 10:19, 20; and see on Ro 8:4). "Abba" is the Syro-Chaldaic word for "Father"; and the Greek word for that is added, not surely to tell the reader that both mean the same thing, but for the same reason which drew both words from the lips of Christ Himself during his agony in the garden (Mr 14:36). He, doubtless, loved to utter His Father's name in both the accustomed forms; beginning with His cherished mother tongue, and adding that of the learned. In this view the use of both words here has a charming simplicity and warmth.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
16. The Spirit itself—It should be "Himself" (see on Ro 8:26).
beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children—"are children"
of God—The testimony of our own spirit is borne in that cry of conscious sonship, "Abba, Father"; but we are not therein alone; for the Holy Ghost within us, yea, even in that very cry which it is His to draw forth, sets His own distinct seal to ours; and thus, "in the mouth of two witnesses" the thing is established. The apostle had before called us "sons of God," referring to our adoption; here the word changes to "children," referring to our new birth. The one expresses the dignity to which we are admitted; the other the new life which we receive. The latter is more suitable here; because a son by adoption might not be heir of the property, whereas a son by birth certainly is, and this is what the apostle is now coming to.
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
17. And if children, then heirs—"heirs also."
heirs of God—of our Father's kingdom.
and joint-heirs with Christ—as the "First-born among many brethren" (Ro 8:29), and as "Heir of all things" (Heb 1:2).
if so be that we suffer—"provided we be suffering with Him."
that we may be also glorified together—with Him. This necessity of conformity to Christ in suffering in order to participate in His glory, is taught alike by Christ Himself and by His apostles (Joh 12:24-26; Mt 16:24, 25; 2Ti 2:12).
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
18. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us—that is, "True, we must suffer with Christ, if we would partake of His glory; but what of that? For if such sufferings are set over against the coming glory, they sink into insignificance."
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
19-22. For, &c.—"The apostle, fired with the thought of the future glory of the saints, pours forth this splendid passage, 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" [Hodge].
the earnest expectation—(compare Php 1:20).
of the creature—rather, "the creation."
waiteth for the manifestation—"is waiting for the revelation"
of the sons of God—that is, "for the redemption of their bodies" from the grave (Ro 8:23), which will reveal their sonship, now hidden (compare Lu 20:36; Re 21:7).
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
20. For the creature—"the creation."
was made subject to vanity, not willingly—that is, through no natural principle of decay. The apostle, personifying creation, represents it as only submitting to the vanity with which it was smitten, on man's account, in obedience to that superior power which had mysteriously linked its destinies with man's. And so he adds
but by reason of him who hath subjected the same—"who subjected it."
in hope—or "in hope that."
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
21. Because the creature itself also—"even the creation itself."
shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption—its bondage to the principle of decay.
into the glorious liberty—rather, "the liberty of the glory."
of the children of God—that is, the creation itself shall, in a glorious sense, be delivered into that freedom from debility and decay in which the children of God, when raised up in glory, shall expatiate: into this freedom from corruptibility the creation itself shall, in a glorious sense, be delivered (So Calvin, Beza, Bengel, Tholuck, Olshausen, De Wette, Meyer, Philippi, Hodge, Alford, &c.).
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now—If for man's sake alone the earth was cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery. And if so, to represent it as sympathizing with man's miseries, and as looking forward to his complete redemption as the period of its own emancipation from its present sin-blighted condition, is a beautiful thought, and in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture on the subject. (See on 2Pe 3:13).
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
23. And not only they, but ourselves also—or "not only [so], but even we ourselves"—that is, besides the inanimate creation.
which have the first-fruits of the Spirit—or, "the Spirit as the first-fruits" of our full redemption (compare 2Co 1:22), moulding the heart to a heavenly frame and attempering it to its future element.
even we ourselves—though we have so much of heaven already within us.
groan within ourselves—under this "body of sin and death," and under the manifold "vanity and vexation of spirit" that are written upon every object and every pursuit and every enjoyment under the sun.
waiting for the—manifestation of our
adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body—from the grave: "not (be it observed) the deliverance of ourselves from the body, but the redemption of the body itself from the grave" [Bengel].
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
24. For we are saved by hope—rather, "For in hope we are saved"; that is, it is more a salvation in hope than as yet in actual possession.
but hope that is seen is not hope—for the very meaning of hope is, the expectation that something now future will become present.
for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?—the latter ending when the other comes.
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
25. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it—that is, then, patient waiting for it is our fitting attitude.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also, &c.—or, "But after the like manner doth the Spirit also help.
our infirmities—rather (according to the true reading), "our infirmity"; not merely the one infirmity here specified, but the general weakness of the spiritual life in its present state, of which one example is here given.
for we know not what we should pray for as we ought—It is not the proper matter of prayer that believers are at so much loss about, for the fullest directions are given them on this head: but to ask for the right things "as they ought" is the difficulty. This arises partly from the dimness of our spiritual vision in the present veiled state, while we have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (see on 1Co 13:9 and 2Co 5:7), and the large admixture of the ideas and feelings which spring from the fleeting objects of sense that there is in the very best views and affections of our renewed nature; partly also from the necessary imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the subtle spiritual feelings of the heart. In these circumstances, how can it be but that much uncertainty should surround all our spiritual exercises, and that in our nearest approaches and in the freest outpourings of our hearts to our Father in heaven, doubts should spring up within us whether our frame of mind in such exercises is altogether befitting and well pleasing to God? Nor do these anxieties subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience.
but the Spirit itself—rather, "Himself." (See end of Ro 8:27).
maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered—that is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language. Sublime and affecting ideas, for which we are indebted to this passage alone! "As we struggle to express in articulate language the desires of our hearts and find that our deepest emotions are the most inexpressible, we 'groan' under this felt inability. But not in vain are these groanings. For 'the Spirit Himself' is in them, giving to the emotions which He Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel, they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf."
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
27. And—rather, "But," inarticulate though these groanings be.
he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he—the Spirit
maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God—As the Searcher of hearts, He watches the surging emotions of them in prayer, and knows perfectly what the Spirit means by the groanings which He draws forth within us, because that blessed Intercessor pleads by them only for what God Himself designs to bestow.
Note, (1) Are believers "led by the Spirit of God" (Ro 8:14)? How careful then should they be not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph 4:30)! Compare Ps 32:8, 9: "I will … guide thee with Mine eye. Be not (then) as the horse, or as the mule," &c. (2) "The spirit of bondage," to which many Protestants are "all their lifetime subject," and the "doubtsome faith" which the Popish Church systematically inculcates, are both rebuked here, being in direct and painful contrast to that "spirit of adoption," and that witness of the Spirit, along with our own spirit, to the fact of our sonship, which it is here said the children of God, as such, enjoy (Ro 8:15, 16). (3) As suffering with Christ is the ordained preparation for participating in this glory, so the insignificance of the one as compared with the other cannot fail to lighten the sense of it, however bitter and protracted (Ro 8:17, 18). (4) It cannot but swell the heart of every intelligent Christian to think that if external nature has been mysteriously affected for evil by the fall of man, it only awaits his completed recovery, at the resurrection, to experience a corresponding emancipation from its blighted condition into undecaying life and unfading beauty (Ro 8:19-23). (5) It is not when believers, through sinful "quenching of the Spirit," have the fewest and faintest glimpses of heaven, that they sigh most fervently to be there; but, on the contrary, when through the unobstructed working of the Spirit in their hearts, "the first-fruits" of the glory to be revealed are most largely and frequently tasted, then, and just for that reason, is it that they "groan within themselves" for full redemption (Ro 8:23). For thus they reason: If such be the drops, what will the ocean be? If thus "to see through a glass darkly" be so very sweet, what will it be to "see face to face?" If when "my Beloved stands behind our wall, looking forth at the windows, showing Himself through the lattice" (So 2:9)—that thin veil which parts the seen from the unseen—if He is even thus to me "Fairer than the children of men," what shall He be when He stands confessed before my undazzled vision, the Only-begotten of the Father in my own nature, and I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him as He is? (6) "The patience of hope" (1Th 1:3) is the fitting attitude for those who with the joyful consciousness that they are already "saved" (2Ti 1:9; Tit 3:5), have yet the painful consciousness that they are saved but in part: or, "that being justified by His grace, they are made (in the present state) heirs according to the hope (only) of eternal life," Tit 3:7 (Ro 8:24, 25). (7) As prayer is the breath of the spiritual life, and the believer's only effectual relief under the "infirmity" which attaches to his whole condition here below, how cheering is it to be assured that the blessed Spirit, cognizant of it all, comes in aid of it all; and in particular, that when believers, unable to articulate their case before God, can at times do nothing but lie "groaning" before the Lord, these inarticulate groanings are the Spirit's own vehicle for conveying into "the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth" their whole case; and come up before the Hearer of prayer as the Spirit's own intercession in their behalf, and that they are recognized by Him that sitteth on the Throne, as embodying only what His own "will" determined before to bestow upon them (Ro 8:26, 27)! (8) What a view do these two verses (Ro 8:26, 27) give of the relations subsisting between the Divine Persons in the economy of redemption, and the harmony of their respective operations in the case of each of the redeemed!
Third: Triumphant Summary of the Whole Argument (Ro 8:28-39).
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
28. And—or, "Moreover," or "Now"; noting a transition to a new particular.
we know, &c.—The order in the original is more striking: "We know that to them that love God" (compare 1Co 2:9; Eph 6:24; Jas 1:12; 2:5) "all things work together for good [even] to them who are the called (rather, 'who are called') according to His (eternal) purpose." Glorious assurance! And this, it seems, was a "household word," a "known" thing, among believers. This working of all things for good is done quite naturally to "them that love God," because such souls, persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but mean them well in all His procedure, learn thus to take in good part whatever He sends them, however trying to flesh and blood: and to them who are the called, according to "His purpose," all things do in the same intelligible way "work together for good"; for, even when "He hath His way in the whirlwind," they see "His chariot paved with love" (So 3:10). And knowing that it is in pursuance of an eternal "purpose" of love that they have been "called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ" (1Co 1:9), they naturally say within themselves, "It cannot be that He 'of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things,' should suffer that purpose to be thwarted by anything really adverse to us, or that He should not make all things, dark as well as light, crooked as well as straight, to co-operate to the furtherance and final completion of His high design."
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
29. For—as touching this "calling according to his purpose" (Ro 8:28).
whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate—foreordain. In what sense are we to take the word "foreknow" here? "Those who He foreknew would repent and believe," say Pelagians of every age and every hue. But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the whole spirit, and even letter, of the apostle's teaching (see Ro 9:11; 2Ti 1:9). In Ro 11:2, and Ps 1:6, God's "knowledge" of His people cannot be restricted to a mere foresight of future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here below. Does "whom He did foreknow," then, mean "whom He foreordained?" Scarcely, because both "foreknowledge" and "foreordination" are here mentioned, and the one as the cause of the other. It is difficult indeed for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of the Divine Mind towards men; especially since in Ac 2:23 "the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in 1Pe 1:2 "election" is said to be "according to the foreknowledge of God." But probably God's foreknowledge of His own people means His "peculiar, gracious, complacency in them," while His "predestinating" or "foreordaining" them signifies His fixed purpose, flowing from this, to "save them and call them with an holy calling" (2Ti 1:9).
to be conformed to the image of his Son—that is, to be His sons after the pattern, model, or image of His Sonship in our nature.
that he might be the first-born among many brethren—"The First-born," the Son by nature; His "many brethren," sons by adoption: He, in the Humanity of the Only-begotten of the Father, bearing our sins on the accursed tree; they in that of mere men ready to perish by reason of sin, but redeemed by His blood from condemnation and wrath, and transformed into His likeness: He "the First-born from the dead"; they "that sleep in Jesus," to be in due time "brought with Him"; "The First-born," now "crowned with glory and honor"; His "many brethren," "when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is."
Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
30. Moreover—"And," or "Now"; explanatory of Ro 8:29—In "predestinating us to be conformed to the image of His Son" in final glory, He settled all the successive steps of it. Thus
whom he did predestinate, them he also called—The word "called" (as Hodge and others truly observe) is never in the Epistles of the New Testament applied to those who have only the outward invitation of the Gospel (as in Mt 20:16; 22:14). It always means "internally, effectually, savingly called." It denotes the first great step in personal salvation and answers to "conversion." Only the word conversion expresses the change of character which then takes place, whereas this "calling" expresses the divine authorship of the change, and the sovereign power by which we are summoned, Matthew-like, Zaccheus-like, out of our old, wretched, perishing condition, into a new, safe, blessed life.
and whom he called—thus.
them he also justified—brought into the definite state of reconciliation already so fully described.
and whom he justified, them he also glorified—brought to final glory (Ro 8:17, 18). Noble climax, and so rhythmically expressed! And all this is viewed as past; because, starting from the past decree of "predestination to be conformed to the image of God's Son" of which the other steps are but the successive unfoldings—all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
31. What shall we then say to these things?—"We can no farther go, think, wish" [Bengel]. This whole passage, to Ro 8:34, and even to the end of the chapter, strikes all thoughtful interpreters and readers, as transcending almost every thing in language, while Olshausen notices the "profound and colossal" character of the thought.
If God be for us, who can be against us?—If God be resolved and engaged to bring us through, all our enemies must be His; and "Who would set the briers and thorns against Him in battle? He would go through them. He would burn them together" (Isa 27:4). What strong consolation is here! Nay, but the great Pledge of all has already been given; for,
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
32. He—rather, "He surely." (It is a pity to lose the emphatic particle of the original).
that spared not—"withheld not," "kept not back." This expressive phrase, as well as the whole thought, is suggested by Ge 22:12, where Jehovah's touching commendation of Abraham's conduct regarding his son Isaac seems designed to furnish something like a glimpse into the spirit of His own act in surrendering His own Son. "Take now (said the Lord to Abraham) thy son, thine only, whom thou lovest, and … offer him for a burnt offering" (Ge 22:2); and only when Abraham had all but performed that loftiest act of self-sacrifice, the Lord interposed, saying, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou HAST NOT WITHHELD THY SON, THINE ONLY SON, from Me." In the light of this incident, then, and of this language, our apostle can mean to convey nothing less than this, that in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up," or surrendering Him, God exercised, in His Paternal character, a mysterious act of Self-sacrifice, which, though involving none of the pain and none of the loss which are inseparable from the very idea of self-sacrifice on our part, was not less real, but, on the contrary, as far transcended any such acts of ours as His nature is above the creature's. But this is inconceivable if Christ be not God's "own (or proper) Son," partaker of His very nature, as really as Isaac was of his father Abraham's. In that sense, certainly, the Jews charged our Lord with making Himself "equal with God" (see on Joh 5:18), which He in reply forthwith proceeded, not to disown, but to illustrate and confirm. Understand Christ's Sonship thus, and the language of Scripture regarding it is intelligible and harmonious; but take it to be an artificial relationship, ascribed to Him in virtue either of His miraculous birth, or His resurrection from the dead, or the grandeur of His works, or all of these together—and the passages which speak of it neither explain of themselves nor harmonize with each other.
delivered him up—not to death merely (as many take it), for that is too narrow an idea here, but "surrendered Him" in the most comprehensive sense; compare Joh 3:16, "God so loved the world that He GAVE His only-begotten Son."
for us all—that is, for all believers alike; as nearly every good interpreter admits must be the meaning here.
how shall he not—how can we conceive that He should not.
with him also—rather, "also with Him." (The word "also" is often so placed in our version as to obscure the sense; see on Heb 12:1).
freely give us all things?—all other gifts being not only immeasurably less than this Gift of gifts, but virtually included in it.
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
33, 34. Who shall lay anything to the charge of—or, "bring any charge against."
God's elect?—the first place in this Epistle where believers are styled "the elect." In what sense this is meant will appear in next chapter.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
34. yea rather, that is risen again—to make good the purposes of His death. Here, as in some other cases, the apostle delightfully corrects himself (see Ga 4:9; and see on Ro 1:12); not meaning that the resurrection of Christ was of more saving value than His death, but that having "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself"—which though precious to us was to Him of unmingled bitterness—it was incomparably more delightful to think that He was again alive, and living to see to the efficacy of His death in our behalf.
who is even—"also"
at the right hand of God—The right hand of the king was anciently the seat of honor (compare 1Sa 20:25; 1Ki 2:19; Ps 45:9), and denoted participation in the royal power and glory (Mt 20:21). The classical writings contain similar allusions. Accordingly Christ's sitting at the right hand of God—predicted in Ps 110:1, and historically referred to in Mr 16:19; Ac 2:33; 7:56; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; 1Pe 3:22; Re 3:21—signifies the glory of the exalted Son of man, and the power in the government of the world in which He participates. Hence it is called "sitting on the right hand of Power" (Mt 26:64), and "sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high" (Heb 1:3) [Philippi].
who also maketh intercession for us—using all His boundless interest with God in our behalf. This is the top of the climax. "His Session at God's right hand denotes His power to save us; His Intercession, His will to do it" [Bengel]. But how are we to conceive of this intercession? Not certainly as of one pleading "on bended knees and with outstretched arms," to use the expressive language of Calvin. But yet, neither is it merely a figurative intimation that the power of Christ's redemption is continually operative [Tholuck], or merely to show the fervor and vehemence of His love for us [Chrysostom]. It cannot be taken to mean less than this: that the glorified Redeemer, conscious of His claims, expressly signifies His will that the efficacy of His death should be made good to the uttermost, and signifies it in some such royal style as we find Him employing in that wonderful Intercessory Prayer which He spoke as from within the veil (see on Joh 17:11, 12): "Father, I WILL that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am" (see on Joh 17:24). But in what form this will is expressed is as undiscoverable as it is unimportant.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
35, 36. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?—This does not mean "our love to Christ," as if, Who shall hinder us from loving Christ? but "Christ's love to us," as is clear from the closing words of the chapter, which refer to the same subject. Nor would the other sense harmonize with the scope of the chapter, which is to exhibit the ample ground of the believer's confidence in Christ. "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" [Hodge].
shall tribulation, &c.—"None of these, nor all together, how terrible soever to the flesh, are tokens of God's wrath, or the least ground for doubt of His love. From whom could such a question come better than from one who had himself for Christ's sake endured so much? (See 2Co 11:11-33; 1Co 4:10-13). The apostle says not (remarks Calvin nobly) "What," but "Who," just as if all creatures and all afflictions were so many gladiators taking arms against the Christians [Tholuck].
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
36. As it is written, For thy sake, &c.—(Ps 44:22)—quoted as descriptive of what God's faithful people may expect from their enemies at any period when their hatred of righteousness is roused, and there is nothing to restrain it (see Ga 4:29).
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us—not, "We are so far from being conquered by them, that they do us much good" [Hodge]; for though this be true, the word means simply, "We are pre-eminently conquerors." See on Ro 5:20. And so far are they from "separating us from Christ's love," that it is just "through Him that loved us" that we are victorious over them.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
38, 39. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers—whether good or bad. But as the bad are not called "angels," or "principalities," or "powers," save with some addition to show that such are meant (Mt 25:41; Col 2:15; Eph 6:12; 2Pe 2:4—except perhaps 1Co 6:3), probably the good are meant here, but merely as the same apostle supposes an angel from heaven to preach a false gospel. (So the best interpreters).
nor things present, nor things to come—no condition of the present life and none of the unknown possibilities of the life to come.
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
39. nor any other creature—rather, "created thing"—any other thing in the whole created universe of God
shall be able to separate us, &c.—"All the terms here are to be taken in their most general sense, and need no closer definition. The indefinite expressions are meant to denote all that can be thought of, and are only a rhetorical paraphrase of the conception of allness" [Olshausen].
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord—Thus does this wonderful chapter, with which the argument of the Epistle properly closes, leave us who are "justified by faith" in the arms of everlasting Love, whence no hostile power or conceivable event can ever tear us. "Behold what manner of love is this?" And "what manner of persons ought we to be," who are thus "blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ?"
Note, (1) There is a glorious consistency between the eternal purposes of God and the free agency of men, though the link of connection is beyond human, perhaps created, apprehension (Ro 8:28). (2) How ennobling is the thought that the complicated movements of the divine government of the world are all arranged in expressed furtherance of the "good" of God's chosen (Ro 8:28)! (3) To whatever conformity to the Son of God in dignity and glory, believers are or shall hereafter be raised, it will be the joy of everyone of them, as it is most fitting, "that in all things He should have the pre-eminence" (Col 1:18), (Ro 8:29). (4) "As there is a beautiful harmony and necessary connection between the several doctrines of grace, 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 saved" (Ro 8:29, 30) [Hodge]. (5) However difficult it may be for finite minds to comprehend the emotions of the Divine Mind, let us never for a moment doubt that in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up for us all," God made a real sacrifice of all that was dearest to His heart, and that in so doing He meant for ever to assure His people that all other things which they need—inasmuch as they are nothing to this stupendous gift, and indeed but the necessary sequel of it—will in due time be forthcoming (Ro 8:32). (6) In return for such a sacrifice on God's part, what can be considered too great on ours? (7) If there could be any doubt as to the meaning of the all-important word "Justification" in this Epistle—whether, as the Church of Rome teaches, and many others affirm, it means "infusing righteousness into the unholy, so as to make them righteous," or, according to Protestant teaching, "absolving, acquitting, or pronouncing righteous the guilty" Ro 8:33 ought to set such doubt entirely at rest. For the apostle's question in this verse is, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?" In other words, "Who shall pronounce" or "hold them guilty?" seeing that "God justifies" them: showing beyond all doubt, that to "justify" was intended to express precisely the opposite of "holding guilty"; and consequently (as Calvin triumphantly argues) that it means "to absolve from the charge of guilt." (8) If there could be any reasonable doubt in what light the death of Christ is to be regarded in this Epistle, Ro 8:34 ought to set that doubt entirely at rest. For there the apostle's question is, Who shall "condemn" God's elect, since "Christ died" for them; showing beyond all doubt (as Philippi justly argues) that it was the expiatory (character of that death which the apostle had in view). (9) What an affecting view of the love of Christ does it give us to learn that His greatest nearness to God and most powerful interest with Him—as "seated on His right hand"—is employed in behalf of His people here below (Ro 8:34)! (10) "The whole universe, with all that it contains, so far as it is good, is the friend and ally of the Christian; and, so far as it is evil, is more than a conquered foe" (Ro 8:35-39) [Hodge]. (11) Are we who "have tasted that the Lord is gracious," both "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" (1Pe 1:5), and embraced in the arms of Invincible Love? Then surely, while "building ourselves up on our most holy faith," and "praying in the Holy Ghost," only the more should we feel constrained to "keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 20, 21).