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8. Life Through the Spirit
1There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. 3For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: 7because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: 8and they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But ye are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. 11But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh: 13for if ye live after the flesh, ye must die; but if by the Spirit ye put to death the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15For ye received not the spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: 17and 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 with him. 18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. 19For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth? 25But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it. 26And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; 27and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. 29For whom he foreknew, he also foreordained to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren: 30and whom he foreordained, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; 34who is he that condemneth? It is Christ Jesus that died, yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36Even as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor 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.
28. And we know, etc. He now draws this conclusion from what had been said, that so far are the troubles of this life from hindering our salvation, that, on the contrary, they are helps to it. It is no objection that he sets down an illative particle, for it is no new thing with him to make somewhat an indiscriminate use of adverbs, and yet this conclusion includes what anticipates an objection. For the judgment of the flesh in this case exclaims, that it by no means appears that God hears our prayers, since our afflictions continue the same. Hence the Apostle anticipates this and says, that though God does not immediately succour his people, he yet does not forsake them, for by a wonderful contrivance he turns those things which seem to be evils in such a way as to promote their salvation. If any one prefers to read this verse by itself, as though Paul proceeded to a new argument in order to show that adversities which assist our salvation, ought not to be borne as hard and grievous things, I do not object. At the same time, the design of Paul is not doubtful: “Though the elect and the reprobate are indiscriminately exposed to similar evils, there is yet a great, difference; for God trains up the faithful by afflictions, and thereby promotes their salvation.”
But we must remember that Paul speaks here only of adversities, as though he had said, “All things which happen to the saints are so overruled by God, that what the world regards as evil, the issue shows to be good.” For though what Augustine says is true, that even the sins of the saints are, through the guiding providence of God, so far from doing harm to them, that, on the contrary, they serve to advance their salvation; yet this belongs not to this passage, the subject of which is the cross.
It must also be observed, that he includes the whole of true religion in the love of God, as on it depends the whole practice of righteousness.
Even to them who according to his purpose, etc. This clause seems to have been added as a modification, lest any one should think that the faithful, because they love God, obtain by their own merit the advantage of deriving such fruit from their adversities. We indeed know that when salvation is the subject, men are disposed to begin with themselves, and to imagine certain preparations by which they would anticipate the favor of God. Hence Paul teaches us, that those whom he had spoken of as loving God, had been previously chosen by him. For it is certain that the order is thus pointed out, that we may know that it proceeds from the gratuitous adoption of God, as from the first cause, that all things happen to the saints for their salvation. Nay, Paul shows that the faithful do not love God before they are called by him, as in another place he reminds us that the Galatians were known of God before they knew him. (Galatians 4:9.) It is indeed true what Paul intimates, that afflictions avail not to advance the salvation of any but of those who love God; but that saying of John is equally true, that then only he is begun to be loved by us, when he anticipates us by his gratuitous love.
But the calling of which Paul speaks here, has a wide meaning, for it is not to be confined to the manifestation of election, of which mention is presently made, but is to be set simply in opposition to the course pursued by men; as though Paul had said, — “The faithful attain not religion by their own efforts, but are, on the contrary led by the hand of God, inasmuch as he has chosen them to be a peculiar people to
himself.” The word purpose distinctly excludes whatever is imagined to be adduced mutually by men; as though Paul had denied, that the causes of our election are to be sought anywhere else, except in the secret good pleasure of God; which subject is more fully handled in the first chapter to the Ephesians, and in the first of the Second Epistle to Timothy; where also the contrast between this purpose and
human righteousness is more distinctly set forth.
Hammond has a long note on the expression, κατὰ πρόθεσιν and quotes Cyril of Jerusalem, Clemens of Alexandria, and Theophylact, as rendering the words, “according to their purpose,” that is, those who love God, — a construction of itself strange, and wholly alien to the whole tenor of the passage, and to the use of the word in most other instances. Paul has never used the word, except in one instance, (2 Timothy 3:10,) but with reference to God’s purpose or decree, — see Romans 9:11; Ephesians 1:11; Ephesians 3:11; 2 Timothy 1:9. It seems that Chrysostom, Origen, Theodoret, and other Fathers, have given the same singularly strange explanation. But in opposition to these, Poole mentions Ambrose, Augustine, and even Jerome, as regarding “the purpose” here as that of God: in which opinion almost all modern Divines agree.
Grotius very justly observes, that κλητοὶ, the called, according to the language of Paul, mean those who obey the call, (qui vocanti obediunt) and refers to Romans 1:6; 1 Corinthians 1:24; Revelation 17:14. And Stuart says that the word has this meaning throughout the New Testament, except in two instances, Matthew 20:16. and Matthew 22:14, where it means, invited. He therefore considers it as equivalent to ἔκλεκτοι, chosen, elected, or true Christians. — Ed. Paul, however, no doubt made here this express declaration, — that our salvation is based on the election of God, in order that he might make a transition to that which he immediately subjoined, namely, that by the same celestial decree, the afflictions, which conform us to Christ, have been appointed; and he did this for the purpose of connecting, as by a kind of necessary chain, our salvation with the bearing of the cross.
29. For whom he has foreknown, etc. He then shows, by the very order of election, that the afflictions of the faithful are nothing else than the manner by which they are conformed to the image of Christ; and that this was necessary, he had before declared. There is therefore no reason for us to be grieved, or to think it hard and grievous, that we are afflicted, unless we disapprove of the Lord’s election, by which we have been foreordained to life, and unless we are unwilling to bear the image of the Son of God, by which we are to be prepared for celestial glory.
But the foreknowledge of God, which Paul mentions, is not a bare prescience, as some unwise persons absurdly imagine, but the adoption by which he had always distinguished his children from the reprobate.
Much controversy has been about the meaning of the verb προέγνω, in this place. Many of the Fathers, such as Jerome, Chrysostom, and Theodoret, regarded it in the sense of simple prescience, as having reference
to those who would believe and obey the gospel. The verb is found only in this place, and in the following passages, Romans 11:2; Acts 26:5; 1 Peter 1:20; 2 Peter 3:17. In the second, and in the last passage, it signifies merely a previous knowledge or acquaintance, and refers to men. In 1 Peter 1:20, it is applied to Christ as having been “foreordained,” according to our version, “before the foundation of the world.” In this Epistle,
Romans 11:2, it refers to God, — “God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew;” and according to the context, it means the same as elected; for the Apostle speaks of what God did “according to the election of grace,” and not according to foreseen faith.
The noun derived from it is found in two places, Acts 2:23, and 1 Peter 1:2. In the first it evidently means decree, foreordination, and in the second, the same; where it is said, that those addressed by the Apostle were elected, “according to the foreknowledge of God, κατὰ πρόγνωσιν Θεοῦ, through the sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience;” they were not then elected, according to God’s foreknowledge or foreordination, because of their obedience. This entirely subverts the gloss put on the verb in this passage.
The usual meaning given to the verb here is fore-approved, or chosen. Grotius, Turrettin, and others, consider that γινώσκω has the same meaning with the verb ידע, in Hebrew, which is sometimes that of approving or favoring, or regarding with love and approbation. So the compound verb may be rendered here, “whom he fore-approved, or foreknew,” as the objects of his choice: and this idea is what alone comports with the rest of the passage.
Stuart prefers another meaning, and that which it seems to have in 1 Peter 1:20, “foreordained.” He says that γινώσκω means sometimes to will, to determine, to ordain, to decree, and brings examples from Josephus, Plutarch, and Polybius. Then the compound verb would be here, “whom he foreordained,” or foredetermined. — Ed. In the same sense Peter says, that the faithful had been elected to the sanctification of the Spirit according to the foreknowledge of God. Hence those, to whom I have alluded, foolishly draw this inference, — That God has elected none but those whom he foresaw would be worthy of his grace. Peter does not in deed flatter the faithful, as though every one had been elected on account of his merit; but by reminding them of the eternal counsel of God, he wholly deprives them of all worthiness. So Paul does in this passage, who repeats by another word what he had said before of God’s purpose. It hence follows, that this knowledge is connected with God’s good pleasure; for he foreknew nothing out of himself, in adopting those whom he was pleased to adopt; but only marked out those whom he had purposed to elect.
The verb προορίζειν, which some translate, to predestinate, is to be understood according to what this passage requires; for Paul only meant, that God had so determined that all whom he has adopted should bear the image of Christ; nor has he simply said, that they were to be conformed to Christ, but to the image of Christ, that he might teach us that there is in Christ a living and conspicuous exemplar, which is exhibited to God’s children for imitation. The meaning then is, that gratuitous adoption, in which our salvation consists, is inseparable from the other decree, which determines that we are to bear the cross; for no one can be an heir of heaven without being conformed to the image of the only-begotten Son of God.
That he may be, or, that he might be, the first-born, etc.; for the Greek infinitive, εἶναι, may be rendered in these two ways; but I prefer the first rendering. But in mentioning Christ’s primogeniture, Paul meant only to express this, — that since Christ possesses a pre-eminence among the children of God, he is rightly given to us as a pattern, so that we ought to refuse nothing which he has been pleased to undergo. Hence, that the celestial Father may in every way bear testimony to the authority and honor which he has conferred on his own Son, he will have all those whom he adopts to be the heirs of his kingdom, to be conformed to his example. Though indeed the condition of the godly is apparently various, as there is a difference between the members of the same body, there is yet a connection between every one and his own head. As then the first-born sustains the name of the family, so Christ is placed in a state of pre-eminence not only that he might excel in honor among the faithful, but also that he might include all under him himself under the common name of brotherhood.
30. And whom he has foredetermined, (præfinivit,) them has he also called, etc. That he might now by a clearer proof show how true it is that a conformity with the humiliating state of Christ is for our good, he adopts a graduating process, by which he teaches us, that a participation of the cross is so connected with our vocation, justification, and, in short, with our future glory, that they can by no means be separated.
But that readers may better understand the Apostle’s meaning, it may be well to repeat what I have already said, — that the word foredetermine does not refer to election, but to that purpose or decree of God by which he has ordained that the cross is to be borne by his people; and by declaring that they are now called, he intimates, that God had not kept concealed what he had determined respecting them, but had made it known, that they might resignedly and humbly submit to the condition allotted to them; for calling here is to be distinguished from secret election, as being posterior to it. That none then may make this objection — that it appears to no one what lot God has appointed for him, the Apostle says, that God by his calling bears an evident testimony respecting his hidden purpose. But this testimony is not only found in the outward preaching of the gospel, but it has also the power of the Spirit connected with it; for the elect are there spoken of, whom God not only addresses by the outward word, but whom he also inwardly draws.
Justification may fitly be extended to the unremitted continuance of God’s favor, from the time of our calling to the hour of death; but as Paul uses this word throughout the Epistle, for gratuitous imputation of righteousness, there is no necessity for us to deviate from this meaning. What Paul indeed had in view was to show that a more precious compensation is offered to us, than what ought to allow us to shun afflictions; for what is more desirable than to be reconciled to God, so that our miseries may no longer be tokens of a curse, nor lead us to ruin?
He then immediately adds, that those who are now pressed down by the cross shall be glorified; so that their sorrows and reproaches shall bring them no loss. Though glorification is not yet exhibited except in our Head, yet as we in a manner behold in him our inheritance of eternal life, his glory brings to us such assurance respecting our own glory, that our hope may be justly compared to a present possession.
We may add, that Paul, imitating the style of the Hebrew language, adopts in these verbs the past instead of the present tense. 270270 Turrettin gives somewhat a different reason: “Paul speaks of these things as past, because they are as already done in God’s decree, and in order to show the certainty of their accomplishment.” A continued act is no doubt what is meant, according to this import, “Those whom God now, consistently with his purpose, exercises under the cross, are called and justified, that they may have a hope of salvation, so that nothing of their glory decays during their humiliation; for though their present miseries deform it before the world, yet before God and angels it always shines forth as perfect.” What Paul then means by this gradation is, That the afflictions of the faithful, by which they are now humbled, are intended for this end — that the faithful, having obtained the glory of the celestial kingdom, may reach the glory of Christ’s resurrection, with whom they are now crucified.
31. What then, etc. The subject discussed having been sufficiently proved, he now breaks out into exclamations, by which he sets forth the magnanimity with which the faithful ought to be furnished when adversities urge them to despond. And he teaches us in these words that with the paternal favor of God is connected that invincible courage which overcomes all temptations. We indeed know, that judgment is usually formed of the love or of the hatred of God, in no other way than by a view of our present state; hence when things fall out untowardly, sorrow takes possession of our minds, and drives away all confidence and consolation. But Paul loudly exclaims, that a deeper principle ought to be inquired after, and that they reason absurdly who confine themselves to the sad spectacle of our present warfare. I indeed allow, that the scourges of God are in themselves justly deemed to be tokens of God’s wrath; but as they are consecrated in Christ, Paul bids the saints to lay hold, above all things, on the paternal love of God, that relying on this shield they may boldly triumph over all evils; for this is a brazen wall to us, so that while God is propitious to us we shall be safe against all dangers. He does not, however, mean, that nothing shall oppose us; but he promises a victory over all kinds of enemies.
If God be for us, etc. This is the chief and the only support which can sustain us in every temptation. For except we have God propitious to us, though all things should smile on us, yet no sure confidence can be attained: but, on the other hand, his favor alone is a sufficient solace in every sorrow, a protection sufficiently strong against all the storms of adversities. And on this subject there are many testimonies of Scripture, which show that when the saints rely on the power of God alone, they dare to despise whatever is opposed to them in the world.
“When I walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I shall not fear evils, for thou art with me.” (Psalm 23:4.)
“In the Lord I trust: what shall flesh do to me.”
“I shall not fear the thousands of the people who beset me.”
For there is no power either under or above the heavens, which can resist the arm of God. Having him then as our defender, we need fear no harm whatever. Hence he alone shows real confidence in God, who being content with his protection, dreads nothing in such a way as to despond; the faithful are doubtless often shaken but are never utterly cast down. In short, the Apostle’s object was to show, that the godly soul ought to rely on the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit, and not to depend on outward things.
32. He who has not spared his own son, etc. As it greatly concerns us to be so thoroughly persuaded of the paternal love of God, as to be able to retain our rejoicing on its account, Paul brings forward the price of our redemption in order to prove that God favors us: and doubtless it is a remarkable and clear evidence of inappreciable love, that the Father refused not to bestow his Son for our salvation. And so Paul draws an argument from the greater to the less, that as he had nothing dearer, or more precious, or more excellent than his Son, he will neglect nothing of what he foresees will be profitable to us. 273273 Calvin renders χαρίσεται by “donaret;” Capellus more fully, “gratis donabit — will gratuitously give.” Christ himself, and everything that comes with or through him, is a favor freely bestowed, and not what we merit. This shuts out, as Pareus observes, everything as meritorious on the part of man. All is grace. The “all things” include every thing necessary for salvation — every grace now and eternal glory hereafter. — Ed.
This passage ought to remind us of what Christ brings to us, and to awaken us to contemplate his riches; for as he is a pledge of God’s infinite love towards us, so he has not been sent to us void of blessings or empty, but filled with all celestial treasures, so that they who possess him may not want anything necessary for their perfect felicity. To deliver up means here to expose to death.
33. Who shall bring an accusation, etc. The first and the chief consolation of the godly in adversities, is to be fully persuaded of the paternal kindness of God; for hence arises the certainty of their salvation, and that calm quietness of the soul through which it comes that adversities are sweetened, or at least the bitterness of sorrow mitigated. Hardly then a more suitable encouragement to patience could be adduced than this, a conviction that God is propitious to us; and hence Paul makes this confidence the main ground of that consolation, by which it behoves the faithful to be strengthened against all evils. And as the salvation of man is first assailed by accusation, and then subverted by condemnation, he in the first place averts the danger of accusation. There is indeed but one God, at whose tribunal we must stand; then there is no room for accusation when he justifies us. The antithetic clauses seem not indeed to be exactly arranged; for the two parts which ought rather to have been set in opposition to each other are these: “Who shall accuse? Christ is he who intercedes:” and then these two might have been connected, “Who shall condemn? God is he who justifies;” for God’s absolution answers to condemnation, and Christ’s intercession to accusation. But Paul has not without reason made another arrangement, as he was anxious to arm the children of God, as they say, from head to foot, with that confidence which banishes all anxieties and fears. He then more emphatically concludes, that the children of God are not subject to an accusation, because God justifies, than if he had said that Christ is our advocate; for he more fully expresses that the way to a trial is more completely closed up when the judge himself pronounces him wholly exempt from guilt, whom the accuser would bring in as deserving of punishment. There is also a similar reason for the second clause; for he shows that the faithful are very far from being involved in the danger of condemnation, since Christ by expiating their sins has anticipated the judgment of God, and by his intercession not only abolishes death, but also covers our sins in oblivion, so that they come not to an account.
The drift of the whole is, that we are not only freed from terror by present remedies, but that God comes to our aid beforehand, that he may better provide for our confidence.
But it must be here observed, as we have before reminded you, that to be justified, according to Paul, is to be absolved by the sentence of God, and to be counted just; and it is not difficult to prove this from the present passage, in which he reasons by affirming one thing which nullifies its opposite; for to absolve and to regard persons as guilty, are contrary things. Hence God will allow no accusation against us, because he has absolved us from all sins. The devil no doubt is an accuser of all the godly: the very law of God and their own conscience convict them; but all these prevail nothing with the judge, who justifies them. Therefore no adversary can shake or endanger our salvation.
Further, he so mentions the elect, as one who doubted not but that he was of their number; and he knew this, not by special revelation, (as some sophists falsely imagine,) but by a perception (sensu - feeling) common to all the godly. What then is here said of the elect, every one of the godly, according to the example of Paul, may apply to himself; for this doctrine would have been not only frigid, but wholly lifeless had he buried election in the secret purpose of God. But when we know, that there is here designedly set before us what every one of the godly ought to appropriate to himself, there is no doubt but that we are all encouraged to examine our calling, so that we may become assured that we are the children of God.
34. Who is he that condemns? etc. As no one by accusing can prevail, when the judge absolves; so there remains no condemnation, when satisfaction is given to the laws, and the penalty is already paid. Now Christ is he, who, having once for all suffered the punishment due to us, thereby declared that he undertook our cause, in order to deliver us: he then who seeks hereafter to condemn us, must bring back Christ himself to death again. But he has not only died, but also came forth, by a resurrection, as the conqueror of death and triumphed over all its power.
He adds still more, — that he now sits at the right hand of the Father; by which is meant, that he possesses dominion over heaven and earth, and full power and rule over all things, according to what is said in Ephesians 1:20. He teaches us also, that he thus sits, that he may be a perpetual advocate and intercessor in securing our salvation. It hence follows, that when any one seeks to condemn us, he not only seeks to render void the death of Christ, but also contends with that unequalled power with which the Father has honored him, and who with that power conferred on him supreme authority. This so great an assurance; which dares to triumph over the devil, death, sin, and the gates of hell, ought to lodge deep in the hearts of all the godly; for our faith is nothing, except we feel assured that Christ is ours, and that the Father is in him propitious to us. Nothing then can be devised more pestilent and ruinous, than the scholastic dogma respecting the uncertainty of salvation.
Who intercedes, etc. It was necessary expressly to add this, lest the Divine majesty of Christ should terrify us. Though, then, from his elevated throne he holds all things in subjection under his feet, yet Paul represents him as a Mediator; whose presence it would be strange for us to dread, since he not only kindly invites us to himself, but also appears an intercessor for us before the Father. But we must not measure this intercession by our carnal judgment; for we must not suppose that he humbly supplicates the Father with bended knees and expanded hands; but as he appears continually, as one who died and rose again, and as his death and resurrection stand in the place of eternal intercession, and have the efficacy of a powerful prayer for reconciling and rendering the Father propitious to us, he is justly said to intercede for us.
35. Who shall separate us, etc. The conviction of safety is now more widely extended, even to lower things; for he who is persuaded of God’s kindness towards him, is able to stand firm in the heaviest afflictions. These usually harass men in no small degree, and for various reasons, — because they interpret them as tokens of God’s wrath, or think themselves to be forsaken by God, or see no end to them, or neglect to meditate on a better life, or for other similar reasons; but when the mind is purged from such mistakes, it becomes calm, and quietly rests. But the import of the words is, — That whatever happens, we ought to stand firm in this faith, — that God, who once in his love embraced us, never ceases to care for us. For he does not simply say that there is nothing which can tear God away from his love to us; but he means, that the knowledge and lively sense of the love which he testifies to us is so vigorous in our hearts, that it always shines in the darkness of afflictions: for as clouds, though they obscure the clear brightness of the sun, do not yet wholly deprive us of its light; so God, in adversities, sends forth through the darkness the rays of his favor, lest temptations should overwhelm us with despair; nay, our faith, supported by God’s promises as by wings, makes its way upward to heaven through all the intervening obstacles. It is indeed true, that adversities are tokens of God’s wrath, when viewed in themselves; but when pardon and reconciliation precede, we ought to be assured that God, though he chastises us, yet never forgets his mercy: he indeed thus reminds us of what we have deserved; but he no less testifies, that our salvation is an object of his care, while he leads us to repentance.
But he calls it the love of Christ, and for this reason, — because the Father has in a manner opened his compassions to us in him. As then the love of God is not to be sought out of Christ, Paul rightly directs to him our attention, so that our faith may behold, in the rays of Christ’s favor, the serene countenance of the Father. The meaning is, — that in no adversities ought our confidence to be shaken as to this truth — that when God is propitious, nothing can be adverse to us. Some take this love in a passive sense, for that by which he is loved by us, as though Paul would have us armed with invincible courage 275275 According to Poole, several of the Fathers entertained this opinion, such as Origen, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and Ambrose: but even Hammond and Grotius, great admirers of the Fathers, regard this love as that of God or of Christ to us. Wolfius says, that all the Lutheran divines give this exposition. It is indeed impossible rightly to view the whole passage without seeing that this explanation is the true one. In verse 32, it is incontestably evident that God’s love to us is what is spoken of: then in verse 37, it is expressly said, “through him who loved us;” and the last verse seems sufficient to remove every possible doubt. The difficulty of Barnes, in thinking it “not conceivable how afflictions should have any tendency to alienate Christ’s love from us,” arises from a misconception: for when we speak of not being separated from the love of Christ, the obvious meaning is, that nothing can separate us from participating in the effects of his love, that He, on account of his love, will sustain us under the greatest trials, and make “us more than conquerors.” The substance of what is here said, is contained in the last clause of Romans 8:32, — “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” It was the assurance of this truth that the Apostle obviously intended to convey. — Ed. but this comment may be easily disproved by the whole tenor of Paul’s reasoning; and Paul himself will presently remove all doubt by defining more clearly what this love is.
Tribulation, or distress, or persecution? etc. The pronoun masculine which he used at the beginning of the verse, contains a hidden power: for when he might have adopted the neuter gender and said — “What shall separate us?” etc., he preferred ascribing personality to things without life, and for this end, — that he might send forth with us into the contest as many champions as there are of temptations to try our faith.
But these three things have this difference: tribulation includes every kind of trouble or evil; distress is an inward feeling, when difficulties reduce us to such an extremity, so that we know not what course to pursue. Such was the anxiety of Abraham and of Lot, when one was constrained to expose his wife to the danger of prostitution, and the other, his daughters; for being brought to straits and being perplexed, they found no way of escape. Persecution properly denotes the tyrannical violence by which the children of God were undeservedly harassed by the ungodly. Now though Paul denies in 2 Corinthians 4:8, that the children of God are reduced to straits, στενοχωρεῖσθαι, he does not yet disagree with himself; for he does not simply make them to be exempt from anxious solicitude, but he means that they are delivered from it, as also the examples of Abraham and Lot testify.
36. As it is written, etc. This testimony adds no small weight to the subject; for he intimates, that the dread of death is so far from being a reason to us for falling away, that it has been almost ever the lot of God’s servants to have death as it were present before their eyes. It is indeed probable, that in that Psalm the miserable oppression of the people under the tyranny of Antiochus is described; for it is expressly said, that the worshippers of God were cruelly treated, for no other reason but through hatred to true religion. There is also added a remarkable protestation, that they had not departed from the covenant of God; which Paul, I think, had especially in view. It is no objection that the saints there complain of a calamity which then unusually pressed on them; for since they show, that they were oppressed with so many evils, having before testified their innocence, an argument is hence fitly drawn, that it is no new thing for the Lord to permit his saints to be undeservedly exposed to the cruelty of the ungodly. But this is not done except for their good; for the Scripture teaches us, that it is alien to the righteousness of God to destroy the just with the wicked, (Genesis 18:23); but that, on the contrary, it is meet for him to requite affliction to those who afflict, and rest to those who are afflicted. (2 Thessalonians 1:6, 9.) And then they affirm that they suffer for the Lord; and Christ pronounces them blessed who suffer for the sake of righteousness. (Matthew 5:10.) By saying that they died daily, they intimated that death was so suspended over them, that their life differed but little from death.
37. We do more than conquer, etc.; that is, we always struggle and emerge. I have retained the word used by Paul,
“Supervincimus“ — ὑπερνικῶμεν; Beza’s version is, amplius quam victores sumus;” Macknight’s, “we do more than overcome;” Schleusner gives this as one of his explanations, “plenissime vincimus — we most fully overcome.” Paul commonly uses ὑπὲρ in an enhansive sense; so the version may be, “we abundantly overcome,” as though he said, “We have strength given us which far exceeds the power of evils.” Some say that the faithful abundantly overcome, because they sustain no real loss, but like silver in the furnace, they lose only their dross; and not only so, but they also carry, as it were from the field of battle, chapter spoils — the fruits of holiness and righteousness. Hebrews 12:10,11. It is further said, that the victory will be this, — that Christ, who has loved them, will raise them from death and adorn them with that glory, with which all the evils of this life are not worthy to be compared.
Beza says, “Not only we are not broken down by so many evils nor despond, but we even glory in the cross.” — Ed. though not commonly used by the Latins. It indeed sometimes happens that the faithful seem to succumb and to lie forlorn; and thus the Lord not only tries, but also humbles them. This issue is however given to them, — that they obtain the victory.
That they might at the same time remember whence this invincible power proceeds, he again repeats what he had said before: for he not only teaches us that God, because he loves us, supports us by his hand; but he also confirms the same truth by mentioning the love of Christ. 277277 “Per eum qui dilexit nos — διὰ του ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς — through him who has loved us.” The aorist participle, says Wolfius, extends to every time, “who has loved and loves and will love us.” From the fact that believers are overcome by no calamities, he draws the inference, that God’s love is constant and most effectual, so that he is present with the distressed to give them courage, to strengthen their patience, and to moderate their calamities. See 1 Peter 5:10. — Ed. And this one sentence sufficiently proves, that the Apostle speaks not here of the fervency of that love which we have towards God, but of the paternal kindness of God and of Christ towards us, the assurance of which, being thoroughly fixed in our hearts, will always draw us from the gates of hell into the light of life, and will sufficiently avail for our support.
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.
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.