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Romans 8:38-39

38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

38. Persuasus enim sum, quod neque mors, neque vita, 278278     Neither death threatened by persecutors, nor life promised on recantation. — Ed. neque angeli neque principatus, neque virtutes, neque principatus, neque virtutes, neque præasentia, neque futura,

39. 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. Neque altitudo, neque profunditas, neque ulla alia creatura, poterit nos dirimere a charitate Dei, Quæ est in Christo Iesu.

38. He is now carried away into hyperbolic expressions, that he might confirm us more fully in those things which are to be experienced. Whatever, he says, there is in life or in death, which seems capable of tearing us away from God, shall effect nothing; nay, the very angels, were they to attempt to overturn this foundation, shall do us no harm. It is no objection, that angels are ministering spirits, appointed for the salvation of the elect, (Hebrews 1:14:) for Paul reasons here on what is impossible, as he does in Galatians 1:8; and we may hence observe, that all things ought to be deemed of no worth, compared with the glory of God, since it is lawful to dishonor even angels in vindicating his truth. 279279     Some of the Fathers, Jerome, Chrysostom, etc., have taken the same view, regarding the Apostle as speaking of good angels, as it were, hypothetically, as in Galatians 1:8. But Grotius, and many others, consider evil angels to be meant. Probably, angels, without any regard to what they are, are intended. — Ed. Angels are also meant by principalities and powers, 280280     Grotius considers the words as being the abstract for the concrete, Princes and Potentates; being called ἀρχαὶ, as some think, as being the first, the chief in authority, and δυνάμεις, as having power. “By these words,” says Beza, “Paul is wont to designate the character of spirits, — of the good in Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16, — and of the bad in Ephesians 6:12, Colossians 2:15.” Hence the probability is, that the words designate different ranks among angelic powers, without any reference to their character, whether good or evil. — Ed. and they are so called, because they are the primary instruments of the Divine power: and these two words were added, that if the word angels sounded too insignificant, something more might be expressed. But you would, perhaps, prefer this meaning, “Nor angels, and whatever powers there may be;” which is a mode of speaking that is used, when we refer to things unknown to us, and exceeding our capacities.

Nor present things, nor future things, etc. Though he speaks hyperbolically, yet he declares, that by no length of time can it be effected, that we should be separated from the Lord’s favor: and it was needful to add this; for we have not only to struggle with the sorrow which we feel from present evils, but also with the fear and the anxiety with which impending dangers may harass us. 281281     “Neither the evils we now feel, nor those which may await us,” — Grotius; rather, “Neither things which now exist, nor things which shall be.” — Ed. The meaning then is, — that we ought not to fear, lest the continuance of evils, however long, should obliterate the faith of adoption.

This declaration is clearly against the schoolmen, who idly talk and say, that no one is certain of final perseverance, except through the gift of special revelation, which they make to be very rare. By such a dogma the whole faith is destroyed, which is certainly nothing, except it extends to death and beyond death. But we, on the contrary, ought to feel confident, that he who has begun in us a good work, will carry it on until the day of the Lord Jesus. 282282     The words, “neither height nor depth,” are left unnoticed ὕψωμα. The first, says Mede, means prosperity, and the latter, adversity. Grotius regards what is meant as the height of honor, and the depth of disgrace. “Neither heaven nor hell,” say others; “neither heaven nor earth,” according to Schleusner. “Things in heaven and things on earth,” is the explanation of Chrysostom The first, ὕψωμα, is only found here and in 2 Corinthians 10:5. Like מרום in Hebrew, it means what is high and elevated, and may, like that, sometimes signify heaven: and βάθος is not earth, but what is deeper; it means a deep soil, Matthew 13:5, — the deep sea, Luke 5:4, — and in the plural, things deep and inscrutable, 1 Corinthians 2:10; it may therefore be very properly taken here for hell.
   That the words are to be thus taken seems probable from the gradation evident in the passage. In the first catalogue in Romans 8:35, he mentions the evils arising from this world, its trials and its persecutions, and those ending in death. In the second, after repeating the utmost length to which worldly persecutors can go, “death or life,” he ascends the invisible world, and mentions angels, then their combined powers, then the powers which do and may exist, then both heaven and hell, and, that he might include everything, except the uncreated God himself, he finishes with the words, “nor any created thing.”

   The whole passage is sublime in an extraordinary degree. The contrast is the grandest that can be conceived. Here is the Christian, all weakness in himself, despised and trampled under foot by the world, triumphing over all existing, and all possible, and even impossible evils and opposition, having only this as his stay and support — that the God who has loved him, will never cease to love, keep, and defend him; yea, were everything created, everything except God himself, leagued against him and attempting his ruin. — Ed.

39. Which is in Christ, etc. That is, of which Christ is the bond; for he is the beloved Son, in whom the Father is well pleased. If, then, we are through him united to God, we may be assured of the immutable and unfailing kindness of God towards us. He now speaks here more distinctly than before, as he declares that the fountain of love is in the Father, and affirms that it flows to us from Christ.


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