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The Privileges of the Children of God
Summary —No Condemnation to Those in Christ. Walking After the Spirit. To be Carnally Minded, Death. To be Spiritually Minded, Life and Peace. The Spirit of Adoption. Heirs of God. The Sufferings of Saints. The Groanings of the Creation. All things Working for Good to Saints. The Purpose and Foreordination of God. God's Protection of His Children.
1–4. There is therefore. The “therefore” points to the argument of chapter VII., which shows 40that in Christ we are delivered from sin and from the curse of the law. No condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. As those in Christ have died with him (6:1–4), they have in him satisfied the law, and hence they cannot be under condemnation. He, the sinless One, “was made sin for us;” so we, forgiven through him, are “made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). This blessed condition depends on a vital union with Christ. “Baptized into Christ,” we must walk in him, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Compare John 15:1–7, and Eph. 1:23. 2. For the law of the Spirit of life. The Spirit of life must be the Holy Spirit. The whole phrase is equivalent to the Gospel, which has been given to men by the agency of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has quickened us into a new life, and as we have died to the law and to sin, we are freed from them. Wesley says that the meaning is the “Gospel has freed us from the Mosaic law.” That the law of the Spirit of life describes the Gospel is shown by verse 3, which explains verse 2. 3. What the law could not do. Because of the resistance it met in human nature. It was not strong enough to overcome the tendency of the flesh, the carnal nature, to evil. God did this by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. When Christ came in human form he took the likeness of sinful flesh. And for sin. As a sacrifice for our sins. See John 1:29. Condemned sin in the flesh. To “condemn” is to sentence and to devote to destruction. Sin is condemned, (1) By the spotless life of Christ. In the flesh he was without sin. (2) By his death for sin our past sins are forgiven. (3) By our vital union with his death and life we rise to walk in a new life, with a new spirit, and hence, not under the power of the flesh. See 6:4. 4. That the righteousness of the law. The righteous demand of the law, its substance, is a loving obedience to God (see Luke 10:27). By the Gospel the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts through the Spirit. Hence, we comply with its righteous demands when we walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. To walk after the flesh is to obey the dictates of the flesh; to walk after the Spirit is to obey its dictates. It dwells in the believer to help him, but its dictates are found in the “words of the Holy Spirit.”
5–8. They that are after the flesh. The unconverted. Those still in a state of nature. These are put in contrast with the converted, believers, who are after the Spirit. These classes are easily distinguished. The first obeys the dictates of the flesh; the other obeys the dictates of the Spirit. “The things of the Spirit” are not revealed to us by internal impulses, but by the words of the Spirit, the Holy Scriptures. The indwelling Spirit helps the new man in Christ to keep these words. 6. To be carnally minded. To be under the dominion of the fleshly impulses of the body. Is death. Is sure proof that one is spiritually dead and under condemnation. To be spiritually minded. To be walking in obedience to the Spirit of Christ. This gives life to the soul, maintains a vital union with Christ, and brings peace, or conscious enjoyment of the grace of God. 7. Because the carnal mind is enmity to God. Is opposed to God's law, and demand for a righteous life. Hence, since it fights against God, it is under condemnation. He does not say that it is impossible for a wicked man to become good, but that it cannot be done while he retains a carnal mind. He must be converted first. 41 8. So then. The result naturally follows that a “carnally-minded man,” one “in the flesh” and under its dominion, “cannot please God.” This is impossible while he continues to mind the things of the flesh.
9–11. But ye are not in the flesh, etc. It has just been shown that he who is under the sway of his fleshly passions is at war with God, cannot please him, and is spiritually dead. But the Christian is under the influence of the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in him. It does dwell in him if he is a new creature, “minding the things of the Spirit.” Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. The proof that we have this indwelling Spirit is that we “mind the things of the Spirit” (verse 5), and bear its fruit (Gal. 5:22, 23). Observe that the Spirit is spoken of in this verse both as the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ. 10. But if Christ be in you. Christ is in us by his Spirit. Notice that the indwelling of the Spirit of God, having the Spirit of Christ, belonging to Christ, having Christ in us, are all varied expressions of the same great fact. The body is dead because of sin. Our bodies have died physically because death came into the world through sin. But the Spirit is life. Our spirit is made alive by union with Christ, and partaking of his righteousness. 11. But if the Spirit of him, etc. The Holy Spirit. That Spirit in us is a pledge that God will raise us, even as Christ was raised from the tomb. Shall also quicken your mortal bodies. Though the body be doomed to death “because of sin,” it shall be “quickened” for those who have God's Spirit dwelling in them. Even our mortal bodies shall be raised, not in corruption, but in incorruption (1 Cor. 15:42–44).
12–17. Therefore. Seeing that we are to enjoy such glorious privileges in Christ. These are described in this section. We are debtors. Under obligation. Since the flesh, or carnal nature is death, we are under no obligation to obey its dictates. 13. But if through the Spirit. By following the Spirit, “minding the things of the Spirit,” we secure life. This is shown in verse 11. The deeds of the body are the sinful deeds suggested by the fleshly desires. We cannot in our own strength mortify, i. e., put an end to, the deeds of the body. It is accomplished by the aid of the Spirit, helping our spirit in the effort. 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit. Those who “through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body” are led by the Spirit. They obey it rather than the flesh. The presence of the Spirit in leading them shows that they are sons of God. How are they led? (1) They have given up their own wills to do God's will, and seek to obey him in all things. (2) To them the Spirit is given as a helper of their weakness (verse 26 below), and by its aid they overcome the flesh. Sons of God. We become sons of God when we are born again, born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), and we maintain the sonship by being led by the Spirit. 15. For ye did not receive the spirit of bondage. The time is referred to when they were born again, and entered the kingdom of 42God. They did not receive the spirit of bondage, of slavery to sin, so that they would obey its dictates, and thus be in fear of death. Instead, they received the Holy Spirit according to promise (Acts 2:38). The Spirit of adoption. The Spirit God bestows upon those who are accepted as his children. Paul was writing to the Romans, among whom the adoption of children, not their own by nature, was common. They would understand this to mean that those converted, or born again, are adopted as children of God; upon those thus adopted he bestows his Spirit; this Spirit in their hearts produces a loving trust that enables them to address God as Father. Abba, Father. Abba, Chaldee for Father. 16. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. The Spirit of God is one witness to the fact. Our spirit is a corroborative witness. How do each bear witness? (1) Witness is usually borne in words, but not always. God's Spirit bears witness in words (see Heb. 10:15). The Holy Spirit shows us how we must become God's children, and how to continue the Christian life. (2) It bears testimony in our lives by its fruits. Do we bear the fruit of the Spirit? (See Gal. 5:22, 23). (3) Does our own spirit testify that we “mind the things of the Spirit?” Does our consciousness recognize its fruits, inward as well as outward? If the testimony of our spirit is that what God's Spirit witnesseth of the sons of God is true of us, then they concur in the testimony that we are the children of God. 17. If children, then heirs. Observe the chain of argument: (1) We are the sons of God. (2) This is shown by our having received the Spirit of adoption. (3) Both God's Spirit and our own spirit witness together that we are children of God. (4) But children are heirs; hence we are “heirs of God; joint heirs with Christ.” Under the Jewish law the older brother had a double portion, but Christ admits all to a joint share of the great inheritance. If so be that we suffer with him. In the figure, we suffer with him when we are “baptized into his death” (6:3). We are crucified (6:6); become dead (6:2); “are buried with him” (6:4); “are planted in the likeness of his death” (6:5). Hence, in these respects we have the “fellowship of his sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). But we must be ready, for his sake, to bear the cross through life. If we do all these things, we shall be “glorified with him also.” We shall share with him in all things.
18–25. The sufferings of this present time. The Christian of our time has little conception of the sufferings of the ancient saints, counted as outcasts, despised, persecuted, slain (see verse 36 below; also 2 Cor. 11:23–28). Yet Paul counted these as nothing in view of the hope of eternal glory. Revealed in us. In the saints when they shall have received the inheritance which God bestows in Christ. The comforts of the saint in the midst of suffering are now given: (1) The hope of glory for which all creation, ruined by the Fall, is looking. (2) The present help of the Spirit. (3) The overruling providence of God. 19. The earnest expectation of the creature. “Creature” is rendered creation in the Revision, and this rendering is approved by all the best critics. Chrysostom says “Paul personifies the world, just as the prophets do when they make the floods to clap their hands.” The whole world is represented earnestly looking forward to that day of future glory when the sons of God will have reached their high estate and be revealed as his children. It is a fine, poetic figure, a grand conception. 20. For the creature was made subject to vanity. The creation was subjected to vanity; i. e., became empty; lost its original significance. The Greek word rendered “vanity,” means “to seek without finding.” God placed “the creation” under man's dominion, and when man 43fell the whole was subject to vanity by God. In hope. A hope was left to creation in its fallen estate. A promise of final redemption was made to fallen man (Gen. 3:15), and the creation is represented as sharing that hope. 21. Because the creature itself shall be delivered. The Revision reads, “The creation was subjected … in hope that the creation itself also,” etc. Though “subjected to vanity,” it still retained the hope of final deliverance. Bondage of corruption. Decay and death. Into the glorious liberty. “The liberty of the glory.” The present state is “bondage to corruption.” The hope is deliverance from the bondage into “the liberty,” etc. In the day of the revelation of that glory, “all things shall become new” (Rev. 21:5). 22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth, etc. The world is in travail, groaning for deliverance. That it is in travail is certain; there is unrest and crying for deliverance everywhere. It may not understand its trouble, nor even what it wants, but the meaning is that it is fallen, its wishes frustrated, and it is sighing for deliverance. These groans and sorrows are a prophecy of a time of deliverance when “there shall be a new heaven, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” 23. Not only they, but ourselves also. Not only does the world groan, but Christians, “though they have the first fruits of the Spirit,” a pledge of a rich and full harvest, groan. There is an eager longing for the fuller enjoyment promised. Waiting for our adoption. We are already adopted children, but rather in expectation that in realization. We have not received the inheritance, the full “revelation of the sons of God.” The redemption of our body. When the full adoption comes, we will not have these poor, frail, dying bodies, subject to weakness, sinfulness and decay, but spiritual bodies. “For in this we do groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (2 Cor. 5:2). 24. For we were saved by hope. Were saved when we became Christians, not that we had received all the fruits of salvation, but were enabled to hope for all, even for the redemption of the body. In hope would be a better rendering than by hope. Hope grasped the full salvation, though not yet attained. We do not hope for what we have, or see. 25. But if we hope, etc. Hope has its blessed office. If we hope for a blessed realization to come, we can labor for it and wait for it with patience. The hopeless soul despairs.
26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. While we are waiting in hope, but suffering, the Spirit is a helper of our weakness. It not only strengthens us, but helps us in prayer. We know not what to pray for as we ought. We often do not know, in our ignorance, what is best. This is especially true in the times of the greatest trial. It was even an experience of our Lord in extremity (John 12:27, 28) and of Paul (Phil. 1:22, 23). But the Spirit itself. Observe the climax: The creation groans; we ourselves groan; the Spirit himself groans. The Spirit within us intercedes by groaning which are his, in that they are prompted by the Spirit. Augustine says: “It is not in himself, nor in the substance of the Eternal and Blessed Trinity that he groans, but in us because he makes us groan.” Groanings that cannot be uttered. Speechless groanings. 27. Knoweth 44what is the mind of the Spirit. These speechless groanings are understood by God, because it is according to his will that the Spirit intercedes.
28–30. All things work together for good. The third ground of encouragement to saints in suffering is now given. To them, under God's providence, all things, even their sorrows, trials and persecutions, work together for blessing. This precious assurance is not to all mankind, saint and sinner, but is limited to a class. To them that love God; the called according to his purpose. These are those who enjoy the blessed assurance just given. These two expressions are different ways of describing the same class. Notice the order in the Revision, which is the order of the Greek. The love of God is the very foundation of the Christian life. See Luke 10:28, and John 14:23. The expression, “Those that love God,” is synonymous with “Followers of Christ.” See 1 Cor. 2:9; Eph. 6:24; 2 Tim. 4:8; James 2:5. The called. These have been called by the gospel and have accepted the call. Many others are called, Jews and Gentiles, but only those who hear and obey are chosen (Matt. 20:16; 20:14). Paul uses the term of the latter class; those who hear and obey. The evidence that we are “the called” is that we love God. According to his purpose. This call was purposed from the time that God promised a Deliverer of the fallen race. 29. For whom he foreknew, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. To foreknow and to predestinate are not the same thing. One is an act of foreknowledge, or knowing something before it occurs; the other is to decree something. We only have knowledge of the past, but God foresees the future even as he sees the past; foresees it, not because he has decreed it, but because there are no limitations on his knowledge. Augustine says: “There can be no predestination without foreknowledge; but there can be foreknowledge without predestination.” Whom does God foreknow? Those who shall love God. As he looked into the future these were present to his mind; foreknown. What did he predestinate of them? Not that they should love God. Not that they should believe; nor that some should be saved and others damned; but that those who he saw beforehand would love God, should be conformed to the image of his Son. The only thing predestinated, or foreordained, is that those who love God as revealed in Christ shall become Christlike in life, and like Christ in eternity. This is the only decree in the passage. 30. Whom he predestinated. He now shows how this is accomplished for those thus foreknown as the lovers of God. He also called. They are “called” by the preaching of the gospel, as in 2 Thess. 2:14: “Whereunto he called you by our gospel.” It is not stated that these alone are called. We know that many others are called. Justified. The called, accepting the call, are justified. Their sins are blotted out. Glorified. These are made heirs of eternal glory. As stated by Godet, the purpose of the whole passage may be expressed as follows: “I see thou dost love God; art a believer; I therefore decree of thee that thou shalt become like my Son and be glorified with him.” The steps by which this is accomplished are calling, justification, and final glorification.
31–39. What shall we say to these things? The rest of the chapter is a hymn of triumph over this assurance of salvation. If God be for us. What has been shown shows that he is for all 45who love God. If he is on our side, we must prevail. 32. He that spared not his own Son. If he gave his Son to die for us, it is impossible that he should refuse us anything that will help or bless us. He has nothing he values more than his Son. 33. Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? No one can, since God himself has justified them. 34. Who is he that condemneth? There can be no condemnation (8:1) since Christ died … is risen … and maketh intercession for us. There is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. 35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Can anything? Can the sufferings of the Christian calling in a time of persecution, such as the prophet described and the early Christians suffered? 36. As it is written. In Psalm 44:22. Will such persecution lead us to abandon Christ? 37. Nay. Not all these sufferings can lead us from Christ, for in all these things we are more than conquerors. We overcome by the aid of him that loved us. 38. For I am persuaded. No hostile power of the universe can lead us away, is the apostle's holy confidence. Death nor life. These adversaries seem to advance in pairs. Death is named first, because death by martyrdom threatens. The next pair is angels, and principalities and powers. “The angels” are good angels, while malignant angels are meant by the other terms. Nor things present, nor the things to come. The present or the future. 39. Nor height, nor depth. Perhaps, the things which exalt us and the things which cast us down. Things high and things low. Nor any other creature. Any other created thing. Shall be able. None of these, “I am persuaded,” shall have power enough to tear us away from Christ, by causing us to apostatize. The love of God, which is in Christ. God's great love for us is all shown through Christ. Nowhere has Paul shown more exultation, more overflowing emotion, than in this close of a profound argument, which shows the complete and full salvation of those who believe upon Christ and are found in him. 46
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