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Romans 8:15-18

15. 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. Et enim non accepistis spiritum servitutis iterum in terrorem: sed accepistis Spiritum adoptionis, per quem clamamus, Abba, Pater.

16. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

16. Ipse enim Spiritus simul testificatur spiritui nostro quod sumus filii Dei:

17. 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. Si vero filii, etiam hæredes; hæredes quidem Dei, cohæredes autem Christi: siquidem compatimur, ut et una glorificemur.

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.

18. Existimo certe non esse pares afflictiones hujus temporis ad futuram gloriam quæ revelabitur erga nos.

15. He now confirms the certainty of that confidence, in which he has already bidden the faithful to rest secure; and he does this by mentioning the special effect produced by the Spirit; for he has not been given for the purpose of harassing us with trembling or of tormenting us with anxiety; but on the contrary, for this end — that having calmed every perturbation, and restoring our minds to a tranquil state, he may stir us up to call on God with confidence and freedom. He does not then pursue only the argument which he had before stated, but dwells more on another clause, which he had connected with it, even the paternal mercy of God, by which he forgives his people the infirmities of the flesh and the sins which still remain in them. He teaches us that our confidence in this respect is made certain by the Spirit of adoption, who could not inspire us with confidence in prayer without sealing to us a gratuitous pardon: and that he might make this more evident, he mentions a twofold spirit; he calls one the spirit of bondage, which we receive from the law; and the other, the spirit of adoption, which proceeds from the gospel. The first, he says, was given formerly to produce fear; the other is given now to afford assurance. By such a comparison of contrary things the certainty of our salvation, which he intended to confirm, is, as you see, made more evident. 253253     By the Spirit, πνεῦμα, (without the article,) some, as Augustine, Beza, and others, understand the Holy Spirit, and so Calvin, for the most part, seems to do. Then “the Spirit of bondage” means the Spirit the effect of whose administration was bondage; and “the Spirit of adoption” must signify the Spirit, the bestower of adoption. But we may take spirit here, in both instances, as it is often taken, in the sense of disposition or feeling; according to the expression, “the spirit of meekness” — πνεύματι πρᾴοτητος, 1 Corinthians 4:21, and “the spirit of fear” — πνεῦμα δειλίας 2 Timothy 1:7. The word for adoption, υἱοθεσία, may be rendered sonship, or affiliation, or filiation, as Luther sometimes renders it: and as the Spirit of meekness means a meek spirit, so we may translate the two clauses here, “a servile spirit” and “a filial spirit.” At the same time it may be better to take the “spirit” throughout as the divine Spirit, as in several instances it must evidently be so taken. — Ed. The same comparison is used by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, where he says, that we have not come to Mount Sinai, where all things were so terrible, that the people, being alarmed as it were by an immediate apprehension of death, implored that the word should be no more spoken to them, and Moses himself confessed that he was terrified;

“but to Sion, the mount of the Lord, and to his city, the heavenly Jerusalem, where Jesus is, the Mediator of the New Testament,” etc. (Hebrews 12:22,24.)

By the adverb again, we learn, that the law is here compared with the gospel: for the Son of God by his coming has brought to us this invaluable benefit, — that we are no longer bound by the servile condition of the law. You are not however to infer from this, either that no one before the coming of Christ was endued with the spirit of adoption, or that all who received the law were servants and not sons: for he compares the ministration of the law with the dispensation of the gospel rather than persons with persons. I indeed allow that the faithful are here reminded how much more bountifully God now deals with them than he did formerly with the fathers under the Old Testament; he yet regards the outward dispensation, in respect of which only we excel them: for though the faith of Abraham, of Moses, and of David, was superior to ours, yet as God kept them apparently under a schoolmaster, they had not advanced into that liberty which has been revealed to us.

But it must at the same time be noticed, that it was designedly, on account of false apostles, that a contrast was made between the literal disciples of the law, and the faithful whom Christ, the heavenly Teacher, not only addresses by words, but also teaches inwardly and effectually by his Spirit.

And though the covenant of grace is included under the law, it is yet far different from it; for in setting up the gospel in opposition to it, he regards nothing but what was peculiar to the law itself, as it commands and forbids, and restrains transgressors by the denunciation of death: and thus he gives the law its own character, in which it differs from the gospel; or this statement may be preferred by some, — “He sets forth the law only, as that by which God covenants with us on the ground of works.” So then persons only must be regarded as to the Jewish people; for when the law was published, and also after it was published, the godly were illuminated by the same Spirit of faith; and thus the hope of eternal life, of which the Spirit is the earnest and seal, was sealed on their hearts. The only difference is, that the Spirit is more largely and abundantly poured forth in the kingdom of Christ. But if you regard only the dispensation of the law, it will then appear, that salvation was first clearly revealed at that time, when Christ was manifested in the flesh. All things under the Old Testament were involved in great obscurity, when compared with the clear light of the gospel.

And then, if the law be viewed in itself, it can do nothing but restrain those, devoted to its miserable bondage, by the horror of death; for it promises no good except under condition, and denounces death on all transgressors. Hence, as there is the spirit of bondage under the law, which oppresses the conscience with fear; so under the gospel there is the spirit of adoption, which exhilarates our souls by bearing a testimony as to our salvation. But observe, that fear is connected with bondage, as it cannot be otherwise, but that the law will harass and torment souls with miserable disquietness, as long as it exercises its dominion. There is then no other remedy for quieting them, except God forgives us our sin and deals kindly with us as a father with his children.

Through whom we cry, etc. He has changed the person, that he might describe the common privilege of all the saints; as though he had said, — “Ye have the spirit, through whom you and all we, the rest of the faithful, cry,” etc. The imitation of their language is very significant; when he introduces the word Father, in the person of the faithful. The repetition of the name is for the sake of amplification; for Paul intimates, that God’s mercy was so published through the whole world, that he was invoked, as Augustine observes, indiscriminately in all languages. 254254     Wolfius gives a quotation from the Talmud, by which it appears that “servants” or slaves, and “maids” or bondmaids, were not allowed among the Jews to call their master Abba (אבא), nor their mistress Aima (אימא), these being names which children alone were permitted to use. And Selden says, that there is an evident allusion in this passage to that custom among the Jews. Under the law the people of God were servants, but under the gospel they are made children; and hence the privilege of calling God Abba. Haldane, quoting Claude, gives the same explanation. The repetition of the word is for the sake of emphasis, and is given as an expression of warm, ardent, and intense feeling.. See an example of this in our Savior’s prayer in the garden, Mark 14:36, and in what he said on the cross, Matthew 27:46. The idea mentioned by Calvin, derived from the Fathers, seems not to be well founded. — Ed. His object then was to express the consent which existed among all nations. It hence follows, that there is now no difference between the Jew and the Greek, as they are united together. Isaiah speaks differently when he declares, that the language of Canaan would be common to all, (Isaiah 19:18;) yet the meaning is the same; for he had no respect to the external idiom, but to the harmony of heart in serving God, and to the same undisguised zeal in professing his true and pure worship. The word cry is set down for the purpose of expressing confidence; as though he said, “We pray not doubtingly, but we confidently raise up a loud voice to heaven.”

The faithful also under the law did indeed call God their Father, but not with such full confidence, as the vail kept them at a distance from the sanctuary: but now, since an entrance has been opened to us by the blood of Christ, we may rejoice fully and openly that we are the children of God; hence arises this crying. In short, thus is fulfilled the prophecy of Hosea,

“I will say to them, My people are ye: they in their turn will answer, Thou art our God.” (Hosea 2:23.)

For the more evident the promise is, the greater the freedom in prayer.

16. The Spirit himself, etc. He does not simply say, that God’s Spirit is a witness to our spirit, but he adopts a compound verb, which might be rendered “contest,” (contestatur,) were it not that contestation (contestatio) has a different meaning in Latin. But Paul means, that the Spirit of God gives us such a testimony, that when he is our guide and teacher, our spirit is made assured of the adoption of God: for our mind of its own self, without the preceding testimony of the Spirit, could not convey to us this assurance. There is also here an explanation of the former verse; for when the Spirit testifies to us, that we are the children of God, he at the same time pours into our hearts such confidence, that we venture to call God our Father. And doubtless, since the confidence of the heart alone opens our mouth, except the Spirit testifies to our heart respecting the paternal love of God, our tongues would be dumb, so that they could utter no prayers. For we must ever hold fast this principle, — that we do not rightly pray to God, unless we are surely persuaded in our hearts, that he is our Father, when we so call him with our lips. To this there is a corresponding part, — that our faith has no true evidence, except we call upon God. It is not then without reason that Paul, bringing us to this test, shows that it then only appears how truly any one believes, when they who have embraced the promise of grace, exercise themselves in prayers. 255255     The words αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα, seem to mean the divine Spirit. The reference is to “the Spirit of God” in Romans 8:14; “This self-same Spirit,” or, “He the Spirit,” for so αὐτὀ τὸ πνεῦμα, may be rendered, especially when the article intervenes between it and its noun. See Luke 24:15; John 16:27
   Beza renders συμμαρτυρεῖ τῶ πνεύματι ἡμῶν, “testifies together with our spirit — una cum nostro spiritu,” and the Vulqate “testifies to our spirit,” as though the verb had not its compound; and it is said to have only the simpler meaning of testifying, though compounded, in Romans 9:1; and in Revelation 22:18, where it has a dative case after it as here, “I testify to every man,” etc. The soul appears to be here called “spirit,” because the renewed soul is intended, or the soul having the spirit of adoption; or it may be an instance of the Apostle’s mode of writing, who often puts the same word twice in a sentence, but in a different meaning. The Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit, say Origen and Theodoret, by producing obedience, love, and imitation of God, which are evidences of our adoption; but Chrysostom and Ambrose say, by enabling us to cry Abba, Father, according to to former verse. The latter seems to be the meaning adopted by Calvin It is said by Estius, according to Poole, that the compound verb is never used without the idea of a joint-testimony being implied, and that in Revelation 22:18, it is a testimony in conjunction with Christ. Then the import of this text would be, that the Holy Spirit testifies, together with the spirit of adoption, to our spirit, to our soul or renewed mind, that we are the children of God. Thus a direct influence of the Spirit, in addition to that which is sanctifying and filial, seems to have been intended. See 2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13,14, 1 John 2:20, 27

   Professor Hodge gives this paraphrase, — “Not only does our filial spirit towards God prove that we are his children, but the Holy Spirit itself conveys to our souls the assurance of this delightful fact.” This seems to be the full and precise import of the passage. — Ed.

But there is here a striking refutation of the vain notions of the Sophists respecting moral conjecture, which is nothing else but uncertainty and anxiety of mind; nay, rather vacillation and delusion. 256256     “The [Roman] Catholic Church, with which all sects that proceed from Pelagian principles agree, deters from the certainty of the state of grace, and desires uncertainty towards God. Such uncertainty of hearts is then a convenient means to keep men in the leading-strings of the priesthood or ambitious founders of sects; for since they are not allowed to have any certainty themselves respecting their relation to God, they can only rest upon the judgments of their leaders about it, who thus rule souls with absolute dominion; the true evangelic doctrine makes free from such slavery to man. — Olshausen
   There is no doubt much truth in these remarks; but another reason may be added: Those who know not themselves what assurance is, cannot consistently teach the doctrine; and real, genuine assurance, is an elevated state, to which man, attached to merely natural principles, can never ascend. — Ed.
There is also an answer given here to their objection, for they ask, “How can a man fully know the will of God?” This certainly is not within the reach of man, but it is the testimony of God’s Spirit; and this subject he treats more at large in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, from which we may derive a fuller explanation of a passage. Let this truth then stand sure, — that no one can be called a son of God, who does not know himself to be such; and this is called knowledge by John, in order to set forth its certainty. (1 John 5:19, 20.)

17. And if children, etc. By an argument, taken from what is annexed or what follows, he proves that our salvation consists in having God as our Father. It is for children that inheritance is appointed: since God then has adopted us as his children, he has at the same time ordained an inheritance for us. He then intimates what sort of inheritance it is — that it is heavenly, and therefore incorruptible and eternal, such as Christ possesses; and his possession of it takes away all uncertainty: and it is a commendation of the exellency of this inheritance, that we shall partake of it in common with the only-begotten Son of God. It is however the design of Paul, as it will presently appear more fully, highly to extol this inheritance promised to us, that we may be contented with it, and manfully despise the allurements of the world, and patiently bear whatever troubles may press on us in this life.

If so be that we suffer together, etc. Various are the interpretations of this passage, but I approve of the following in preference to any other, “We are co-heirs with Christ, provided, in entering on our inheritance, we follow him in the same way in which he has gone before.” And he thus made mention of Christ, because he designed to pass over by these steps to an encouraging strain, — “God’s inheritance is ours, because we have by his grace been adopted as his children; and that it may not be doubtful, its possession as been already conferred on Christ, whose partners we are become: but Christ came to it by the cross; then we must come to it in the same manner.” 257257     The particle εἴπερ is rendered the same as here by Ambrose and Beza, “si modo — if in case that;” but by Chrysostom and Peter Martyr, in the sense of ἐπειδὰν, “quandoquidem — since,” “since we suffer together, in order that we may also be together glorified.” The Vulgate has, “si tamen — if however.” It may be suitably rendered “provided.” — Ed. Nor is that to be dreaded which some fear, that Paul thus ascribes the cause of our eternal glory to our labours; for this mode of speaking is not unusual in Scripture. He denotes the order, which the Lord follows in dispensing salvation to us, rather than the cause; for he has already sufficiently defended the gratuitous mercy of God against the merits of works. When now exhorting us to patience, he does not show whence salvation proceeds, but how God governs his people.

18. I indeed judge, 258258     The particle γὰρ cannot be causal here. It has its primary meaning truly, indeed, or verily, though it has commonly its secondary meaning for, because, therefore. The context is our guide; when there is nothing previously said, for which a reason is given, then it has only an affirmative sense: or as some think, it is to be viewed as a particle of transition, or as signifying an addition, and may be rendered besides, further, moreover, perhaps this latter meaning would be suitable here. In the preceded verse the Apostle says, for the encouragement of Christians, that their conformity to Christ in suffering would terminate in conformity to him in glory: and then, as an additional consideration, he states his full conviction, that present sufferings are as nothing to the glory which they would have to enjoy. The connection can hardly be otherwise seen, except indeed we consider something understood, as, “Not only so;” and then it may be rendered for, as giving a reason for the qualifying negative. An ellipsis of this kind is not without examples in Greek authors, as well as in the New Testament. — Ed. etc. Though they take not altogether an unsuitable view who understand this as a kind of modification; yet I prefer to regard it in the light of an encouragement, for the purpose of anticipating an objection, according to this import, — “It ought not indeed to be grievous to us, if we must pass through various afflictions into celestial glory, since these, when compared with the greatness of that glory, are of the least moment.” He has mentioned future for eternal glory, intimating that the afflictions of the world are such as pass away quickly.

It is hence evident how ill understood has this passage been by the Schoolmen; for they have drawn from it their frivolous distinction between congruity and condignity. The Apostle indeed compares not the worthiness of the one with that of the other, but only lightens the heaviness of the cross by a comparison with the greatness of glory, in order to confirm the minds of the faithful in patience.


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