19. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
19. Siquidem intenta expectatio creature, revelationem filiorum Dei expectat:
20. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope;
20. Vanitati enim creatura subjecta est non volens, sed propter eum qui subjecit ipsam in spe;
21. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
21. Quoniam ipsa quoque creatura asseretur a servitute corruptionis in libertatem gloriæ filiorum Dei.
22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
22. Novimus enim quod creatura universa congemiscit, et ad hunc diem parturit.
Further, the expression,
"For though we know that we are now his sons, yet it appears not yet what we shall be." (1 John 3:2.)
But I have retained the words of Paul; for bolder than what is meet is the version of Erasmus, "Until the sons of God shall be manifest;" nor does it sufficiently express the meaning of the Apostle; for he means not, that the sons of God shall be manifested in the last day, but that it shall be then made known how desirable and blessed their condition will be, when they shall put off corruption and put on celestial glory. But he ascribes hope to creatures void of reason for this end, -- that the faithful may open their eyes to behold the invisible life, though as yet it lies hid under a mean garb.
But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay. Some subtle men, but hardly sober-minded, inquire whether all kinds of animals will be immortal; but if reins be given to speculations where will they at length lead us? Let us then be content with this simple doctrine, -- that such will be the constitution and the complete order of things, that nothing will be deformed or fading.
1 The various opinions which have been given on these verses are referred to at some length by Start; and he enumerates not less than eleven, but considers only two as entitled to special attention -- the material creation, animate and inanimate, as held here by Calvin, and the rational creation, including mankind, with the exception of Christians, which he himself maintains. In favor of the first he names Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, cumenius, Jerome, Ambrose, Luther, Koppe, Doddridge, (this is not correct,) Flatt, and Tholuck; to whom may be added Scott, Haldane, and Chalmers, though Scott, rather inconsistently with the words of the text, if the material creation including animals be meant, regards as a reverie their resurrection; see Romans 8:21.
After a minute discussion of various points, Stuart avows his preference to the opinion, that the creature" means mankind in general, as being the least liable to objections; and he mentions as its advocates Lightfoot, Locke, Turrettin, Semler, Rosenmüller, and others. He might have added Augustine. Reference is made for the meaning of the word "creature" to Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; and 1 Peter 2:13.
It appears from Wolfius, that the greater part of the Lutheran and Reformed Divines have entertained the first opinion, that the "creature" means the world, rational and animal; to which he himself mainly accedes; and what he considers next to this, as the most tenable, is the notion, that the "creature" means the faithful, that "the sons of God" are the blessed in heaven, and that the Apostles and apostolic men were those who enjoyed "the first-fruits of the Spirit."
This last opinion relieves us from difficulties which press on all other expositions; and it may be extricated from objections which have been made to it; only the last sentence needs not be introduced. The whole passage, from Romans 8:18 to the end of Romans 8:25, is in character with the usual style of the Apostle. He finishes the first part with Romans 8:22; and then in the second part he announces the same thing in a different form, in more explicit terms, and with some additions. The "waiting" in Romans 8:19, has a Correspondent "waiting" in Romans 8:23; and "the hope" in Romans 8:20, has another "hope" to Correspond with it in Romans 8:24; and Correspondent too is "the manifestation of the sons of God" in verse 19, and "the redemption of our body" in Romans 8:23. To reiterate the same truth in a different way was to make a deeper impression, and accordant with the Apostles manner of writing. He begins the second time, after Romans 8:22, in which is stated the condition of the whole world; and it is in contrast with that alone that Romans 8:23 is to be viewed, which restates and explains what had been previously said, so that "the creature" are the "we ourselves;" and the Apostle proceeds with the subject to end of the 25th verse. Instances of the same sort of arrangement are to be found in Romans 2:17-24; Romans 11:33-36.
Romans 8:21 may be considered as an explanation only of the "hope," at the end of Romans 8:20; "For even it, the creature," though subjected to vanity, "shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption;" which means the same as "this body of death," in Romans 7:24.
It is objected to its application here to Christians, because where it has this meaning, it is preceded by