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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
5. For they that are after the
flesh—that is, under the influence of the fleshly
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
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
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.
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
for it is not subject—"doth not submit
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.
8. So then—nearly equivalent to "And
they that are in—and, therefore, under
the government of
the flesh cannot please God—having no
obediential principle, no desire to please Him.
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!
10, 11. And if Christ be in you—by His
indwelling Spirit in virtue of which we have one life with
the body—"the body indeed."
is dead because of—"by reason
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].
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
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."
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!
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
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
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
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).
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."
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
the spirit of adoption,
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.
16. The Spirit itself—It should be
"Himself" (see on Ro 8:26).
beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the
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
17. And if children, then heirs—"heirs
heirs of God—of our Father's
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).
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
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"
the earnest expectation—(compare Php 1:20).
of the creature—rather, "the
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).
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."
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,
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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also,
&c.—or, "But after the like manner doth the Spirit also
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
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
Note, (1) Are believers "led by the Spirit of
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
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
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
Summary of the Whole Argument (Ro 8:28-39).
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
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
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."
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
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,
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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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"
&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].
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).
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
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
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.
39. nor any other creature—rather,
"created thing"—any other thing in the whole created universe of
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
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),
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"
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).