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Life in the Spirit

 8

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.


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1. There is then, etc. After having described the contest which the godly have perpetually with their own flesh, he returns to the consolation, which was very needful for them, and which he had before mentioned; and it was this, — That though they were still beset by sin, they were yet exempt fiom the power of death, and from every curse, provided they lived not in the flesh but in the Spirit: for he joins together these three things, — the imperfection under which the faithful always labor, — the mercy of God in pardoning and forgiving it, —and the regeneration of the Spirit; and this indeed in the last place, that no one should flatter himself with a vain notion, as though he were freed from the curse, while securely indulging in the meantime his own flesh. As then the carnal man flatters himself in vain, when in no way solicitous to reform his life, he promises to himself impunity under the pretense of having this grace; so the trembling consciences of the godly have an invincible fortress, for they know that while they abide in Christ they are beyond every danger of condemnation. We shall now examine the words.

After the Spirit. Those who walk after the Spirit are not such as have wholly put off all the emotions of the flesh, so that their whole life is redolent with nothing but celestial perfection; but they are those who sedulously labor to subdue and mortify the flesh, so that the love of true religion seems to reign in them. He declares that such walk not after the flesh; for wherever the real fear of God is vigorous, it takes away from the flesh its sovereignty, though it does not abolish all its corruptions.

2. For the law of the Spirit of life, etc. This is a confirmation of the former sentence; and that it may be understood, the meaning of the words must be noticed. Using a language not strictly correct, by the law of the Spirit he designates the Spirit of God, who sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ, not only to cleanse us from the stain of sin with respect to its guilt, but also to sanctify us that we may be really purified. He adds that it is life-giving, (for the genitive case, after the manner of the Hebrew, is to be taken as an adjective,) it hence follows, that they who detain man in the letter of the law, expose him to death. On the other hand, he gives the name of the law of sin and death to the dominion of the flesh and to the tyranny of death, which thence follows: the law of God is set as it were in the middle, which by teaching righteousness cannot confer it, but on the contrary binds us with the strongest chains in bondage to sin and to death.

The meaning then is, — that the law of God condemns men, and that this happens, because as long as they remain under the bond of the law, they are oppressed with the bondage of sin, and are thus exposed to death; but that the Spirit of Christ, while it abolishes the law of sin in us by destroying the prevailing desires of the flesh, does at the same time deliver us from the peril of death. If any one objects and says, that then pardon, by which our transgressions are buried, depends on regeneration; to this it may be easily answered, that the reason is not here assigned by Paul, but that the manner only is specified, in which we are delivered from guilt; and Paul denies that we obtain deliverance by the external teaching of the law, but intimates that when we are renewed by the Spirit of God, we are at the same time justified by a gratuitous pardon, that the curse of sin may no longer abide on us. The sentence then has the same meaning, as though Paul had said, that the grace of regeneration is never disjoined from the imputation of righteousness.

I dare not, with some, take the law of sin and death for the law of God, because it seems a harsh expression. For though by increasing sin it generates death, yet Paul before turned aside designedly from this invidious language. At the same time I no more agree in opinion with those who explain the law of sin as being the lust of the flesh, as though Paul had said, that he had become the conqueror of it. But it will appear very evident shortly, as I think, that he speaks of a gratuitous absolution, which brings to us tranquillizing peace with God. I prefer retaining the word law, rather than with Erasmus to render it right or power: for Paul did not without reason allude to the law of God. 238238     Ca1vin has, in his exposition of this verse, followed Chrysostom, and the same view has been taken by Beza, Grotius, Vitringa, Doddridge, Scott, and Chalmers. But Pareus, following Ambrose, has taken another view, which Haldane has strongly advocated, and with considerable power of reasoning, though, as some may perhaps think, unsuccessfully. The exposition is this, — “The law of the spirit of life” is the law of faith, or the gospel, which is the ministration of the Spirit; and “the spirit of life” means either the life-giving spirit, or the spirit which conveys the life which is in Christ Jesus. Then “the law of sin and death” is the moral law, so called because it discloses sin and denounces death. It is said that this view corresponds with the “no condemnation” in the first verse, and with the word “law” in the verse which follows, which is no doubt the moral law, and with the truth which the verse exhibits. It is also added that freedom or deliverance from the law of sin, viewed as the power of sin, is inconsistent with the latter part of the former chapter; and that the law of faith, which through the Spirit conveys life, makes us free from the moral law as the condition of life, is the uniform teaching of Paul. “This freedom,” says Pareus, “is ascribed to God, to Christ, and to the Gospel, — to God as the author, Romans 7:25, — to Christ as the mediator, — and to the Gospel as the instrument: and the manner of this deliverance is more clearly explained in the verse which follows.”

3. For what was impossible for the law, etc. Now follows the polishing or the adorning of his proof, that the Lord has by his gratuitous mercy justified us in Christ; the very thing which it was impossible for the law to do. But as this is a very remarkable sentence, let us examine every part of it.

That he treats here of free justification or of the pardon by which God reconciles us to himself, we may infer from the last clause, when he adds, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit For if Paul intended to teach us, that we are prepared by the spirit of regeneration to overcome sin, why was this addition made? But it was very proper for him, after having promised gratuitous remission to the faithful, to confine this doctrine to those who join penitence to faith, and turn not the mercy of God so as to promote the licentiousness of the flesh. And then the state of the case must be noticed; for the Apostle teaches us here how the grace of Christ absolves us from guilt.

Now as to the expression, τὸ ἀδύνατον, the impossibility of the law, it is no doubt to be taken for defect or impotency; as though it had been said, that a remedy had been found by God, by which that which was an impossibility to the law is removed. The particle, ἐν ᾧ, Erasmus has rendered “ea parte qua — in that part in which;” but as I think it to be causal, I prefer rendering it, “eo quod — because:” and though perhaps such a phrase does not occur among good authors in the Greek language, yet as the Apostles everywhere adopt Hebrew modes of expression, this interpretation ought not to be deemed improper. 239239     Calvin is not singular in this rendering. Pareus and Grotius give “quia vel quandoquidem — because or since;” and the latter says, that ἐν ᾧ is an Hebraism for ἐφ ᾧ; see Romans 5:12 Beza refers to Mark 2:19, and Luke 5:34, as instances where it means when or while, and says that it is used in Greek to designate not only a certain time, but also a certain state or condition. Piscator’s rendering is “co quod — because.” — Ed. No doubt intelligent readers will allow, that the cause of defect is what is here expressed, as we shall shortly prove again. Now though Erasmus supplies the principal verb, yet the text seems to me to flow better without it. The copulative καὶ, and, has led Erasmus astray, so as to insert the verb prœstitit — hath performed; but I think that it is used for the sake of emphasis; except it may be, that some will approve of the conjecture of a Grecian scholiast, who connects the clause thus with the preceding words, “God sent his own Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin and on account of sin,” etc. I have however followed what I have thought to be the real meaning of Paul. I come now to the subject itself. 240240     The beginning of this verse, though the general import of it is evident, does yet present some difficulties as to its construction. The clause, as given by Calvin, is, “Quod enim impossibile erat legi,” — τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τον νόμου Pareus supposes δἰα understood, “For on account of the impotency of the law,” etc. Stuart agrees with Erasmus and Luther and supplies the verb “did,” or accomplish, — “For what the law could not accomplish,... God... accomplished,” etc. But the simpler construction is, “For this,” (that is, freedom from the power of sin and death, mentioned in the former verse,) “being impossible for the law,” etc. It is instance of the nominative case absolute, which sometimes occurs in Hebrew. The possessive case, as Grotius says, has often the meaning of a dative after adjectives, as “malum hominis“ is “malum homini — evil to man.” The τὸ has sometimes the meaning of τουτο; it is separated by γὰρ from the adjective. Some say that it is for ὅτι γὰρ, “Because it was impossible for the law,” etc. But changes of this kind are never satisfactory. The rendering of the whole verse may be made thus, —
   3. For this being impossible for the law, because it was weak through the flesh, God having sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful a flesh and on account of sin, has condemned sin in the flesh.

   God sent his Son in that flesh which was polluted by sin, though his Son’s flesh, i.e. human nature, was sinless; and he sent him on account of that sin which reigned in human nature or flesh; and for this end — to condemn, i.e., to doom to ruin, to adjudge to destruction, the sin which ruled in the flesh, i.e. in human nature as fallen and corrupted. This seems to be the meaning. Then in the following verse the design of this condemnation of sin is stated — that the righteousness of the law, or what the law requires, might be done by us. Without freedom from the power of sin, no service can be done to God. It is the destruction of the power of sin, and not the removal of guilt, that is contemplated here throughout; the text of the whole passage is walking after the flesh and walking after the Spirit. — Ed.

Paul clearly declares that our sins were expiated by the death of Christ, because it was impossible for the law to confer righteousness upon us. It hence follows, that more is required by the law than what we can perform; for if we were capable of fulfilling the law there would have been no need to seek a remedy elsewhere. It is therefore absurd to measure human strength by the precepts of the law; as though God in requiring what is justly due, had regarded what and how much we are able to do.

Because it was weak etc. That no one might think that the law was irreverently charged with weakness, or confine it to ceremonies, Paul has distinctly expressed that this defect was not owing to any fault in the law, but to the corruption of our flesh; for it must be allowed that if any one really satisfies the divine law, he will be deemed just before God. He does not then deny that the law is sufficient to justify us as to doctrine, inasmuch as it contains a perfect rule of righteousness: but as our flesh does not attain that righteousness, the whole power of the law fails and vanishes away. Thus condemned is the error or rather the delirious notion of those who imagine that the power of justifying is only taken away from ceremonies; for Paul, by laying the blame expressly on us, clearly shows that he found no fault with the doctrine of the law.

But further, understand the weakness of the law according to the sense in which the Apostle usually takes the word ασθενεια, weakness, not only as meaning a small imbecility but impotency; for he means that the law has no power whatever to justify. 241241     The adjective τὸ ἀσθενὲς is applied to the commandment in Hebrews 7:18. “Impotent, inefficacious,” are the terms used by Grotius; “destitute of strength,” by Beza; and “weak,” by ErasmusEd. You then see that we are wholly excluded from the righteousness of works, and must therefore flee to Christ for righteousness, for in us there can be none, and to know this is especially necessary; for we shall never be clothed with the righteousness of Christ except we first know assuredly that we have no righteousness of our own. The word flesh is to be taken still in the same sense, as meaning ourselves. The corruption then of our nature renders the law of God in this respect useless to us; for while it shows the way of life, it does not bring us back who are running headlong into death.

God having sent his own Son, etc. He now points out the way in which our heavenly Father has restored righteousness to us by his Son, even by condemning sin in the very flesh of Christ; who by cancelling as it were the handwriting, abolished sin, which held us bound before God; for the condemnation of sin made us free and brought us righteousness, for sin being blotted out we are absolved, so that God counts us as just. But he declares first that Christ was sent, in order to remind us that righteousness by no means dwells in us, for it is to be sought from him, and that men in vain confide in their own merits, who become not just but at the pleasure of another, or who borrow righteousness from that expiation which Christ accomplished in his own flesh. But he says, that he came in the likeness of the flesh of sin; for though the flesh of Christ was polluted by no stains, yet it seemed apparently to be sinful, inasmuch as it sustained the punishment due to our sins, and doubtless death exercised all its power over it as though it was subject to itself. And as it behoved our High-priest to learn by his own experience how to aid the weak, Christ underwent our infirmities, that he might be more inclined to sympathy, and in this respect also there appeared some resemblance of a sinful nature.

Even for sin, etc. I have already said that this is explained by some as the cause or the end for which God sent his own Son, that is, to give satisfaction for sin. Chrysostom and many after him understood it in a still harsher sense, even that sin was condemned for sin, and for this reason, because it assailed Christ unjustly and beyond what was right. I indeed allow that though he was just and innocent, he yet underwent punishment for sinners, and that the price of redemption was thus paid; but I cannot be brought to think that the word sin is put here in any other sense than that of an expiatory sacrifice, which is called אשם, ashem, in Hebrew, 242242     The reference had better been made to חטאת, a sin-offering, so called because חטא, sin, was imputed to what was offered, and it was accepted as an atonement. See Leviticus 1:4; Leviticus 4:3, 4, 15; Leviticus 16:21. See also Exodus 30:10. The Septuagint adopted the same manner, and rendered sin-offering in many instances by ἁμαρτία, sin; and Paul has done the same in 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28. That “sin” should have two different meanings in the same verse or in the same clause, is what is perfectly consonant to the Apostle’s manner of writing; he seems to delight in this kind of contrast in meaning while using the same words, depending on the context as to the explanation. He uses the word hope both in Romans 8:21, and in Romans 4:18, in this way. And this is not peculiar to Paul; it is what we observe in all parts of Scripture, both in the New and in the Old Testament. A striking instance of this, as to the word “life,” ψυχή is found in Matthew 16:25, 26, in the last verse it is rendered improperly “soul.”
   Fully admitting all this, I still think that “sin” here is to be taken in its common meaning, only personified. Beza connects περὶ ἁμαρτίας with the preceding clause, “God having sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and that for or on account of sin, (idque pro peccato,)” etc., that is, as he explains, for expiating or taking away sin. “A sin-offering” may indeed be its meaning, for the same expression is often used in this sense in the Septuagint. See Leviticus 5:7, 9, 11; Psalm 40:6

   The sense of taking away strength, or depriving of power or authority, or of destroying, or of abolishing, does not belong, says Schleusner, to the verb κατακρίνειν, to condemn; he renders it here “punished — punivit,” that is, God adjudged to sin the punishment due to it. The meaning is made to be the same as when it is said, that God “laid on him the iniquities of us all.”

   By taking a view of the whole passage, from Romans 7:24 to Romans 8:5, for the whole of this is connected, and by noticing the phraseology, we shall probably conclude that the power of sin and not its guilt is the subject treated of. “Law” here is used for a ruling power, for that which exercises authority and ensures obedience. “The law of sin,” is the ruling power of sin; “the law of the spirit of life,” is the power of the Spirit the author of life; “the law of death” is the power which death exercises. Then “walking after the flesh” is to live in subjection to the flesh; as “walking after the Spirit” is to live in subjection to him. All these things have a reference to the power and not to the guilt of sin. The same subject is continued from Romans 8:5 to Romans 8:15. — Ed.
and so the Greeks call a sacrifice to which a curse is annexed κάθαρμα, catharma. The same thing is declared by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21, when he says, that

“Christ, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

But the preposition περὶ peri, is to be taken here in a causative sense, as though he had said, “On account of that sacrifice, or through the burden of sin being laid on Christ, sin was cast down from its power, so that it does not hold us now subject to itself.” For using a metaphor, he says that it was condemned, like those who fail in their cause; for God no longer deals with those as guilty who have obtained absolution through the sacrifice of Christ. If we say that the kingdom of sin, in which it held us, was demolished, the meaning would be the same. And thus what was ours Christ took as his own, that he might transfer his own to us; for he took our curse, and has freely granted us his blessing.

Paul adds here, In the flesh, and for this end, — that by seeing sin conquered and abolished in our very nature, our confidence might be more certain: for it thus follows, that our nature is really become a partaker of his victory; and this is what he presently declares.

4. That the justification of the law might be fulfilled, etc. They who understand that the renewed, by the Spirit of Christ, fulfil the law, introduce a gloss wholly alien to the meaning of Paul; for the faithful, while they sojourn in this world, never make such a proficiency, as that the justification of the law becomes in them full or complete. This then must be applied to forgiveness; for when the obedience of Christ is accepted for us, the law is satisfied, so that we are counted just. For the perfection which the law demands was exhibited in our flesh, and for this reason — that its rigor should no longer have the power to condemn us. But as Christ communicates his righteousness to none but to those whom he joins to himself by the bond of his Spirit, the work of renewal is again mentioned, lest Christ should be thought to be the minister of sin: for it is the inclination of many so to apply whatever is taught respecting the paternal kindness of God, as to encourage the lasciviousness of the flesh; and some malignantly slander this doctrine, as though it extinquished the desire to live uprightly. 243243     Commentators are divided as to the meaning of this verse. This and the second verse seem to bear a relation in sense to one another; so that if the second verse refers to justification, this also refers to it; but if freedom from the power of sin and death be what is taught in the former verse, the actual or personal fulfillment of the law must be what is intended here. Some, such as Pareus and Venema, consider justification to be the subject of both verses; and others, such as Scott and Doddridge, consider it to be sanctification. But Beza, Chalmers, as well as Calvin, somewhat inconsistently, regard the second verse as speaking of freedom from the power or dominion of sin, and not from its guilt or condemnation, and this verse as speaking of the imputed righteousness of Christ, and not of that righteousness which believers are enabled to perform by the Spirit’s aid and influence. The verses seem so connected in the argument, that one of these two ideas must be held throughout.
   There is nothing decisive in the wording of this verse, though the cast of the expressions seem more favorable to the idea entertained by Doddridge and Scott, and especially what follows in the context, where the work of the Spirit is exclusively spoken of. The word δικαιωμα, is better rendered “righteousness” than “justification;” for “the righteousness to the law” means the righteousness which the law requires; and the words “might be fulfilled in us,” may, with equal propriety as to the uses loquendi, be rendered, “might be performed by us.” The verb πληρόω has this meaning in Romans 13:8, and in other places.

   Viewed in this light the verse contains the same truth with what is expressed by “serving the law of God,” in Romans 7:25, and the same with yielding our members as “instruments of righteousness unto God,” in Romans 6:13. That this is to establish a justification by the law, is obviated by the consideration, that this righteousness is performed through the efficacy of Christ’s death, and through the reviving power of the Spirit, and not through the law, and that it is not a justifying righteousness before God, for it is imperfect, and the law can acknowledge nothing as righteousness but what is perfect. The sanctification now begun will be finally completed; but it is all through grace: and the completion of this work will be a complete conformity with the immutable law of God. — Ed.

5. For they who are after the flesh, etc. He introduces this difference between the flesh and the Spirit, not only to confirm, by an argument derived from what is of an opposite character, what he has before mentioned, — that the grace of Christ belongs to none but to those who, having been regenerated by the Spirit, strive after purity; but also to relieve the faithful with a seasonable consolation, lest being conscious of many infirmities, they should despair: for as he had exempted none from the curse, but those who lead a spiritual life, he might seem to cut off from all mortals the hope of salvation; for who in this world can be found adorned with so much angelic purity so as to be wholly freed from the flesh? It was therefore necessary to define what it is to be in the flesh, and to walk after the flesh. At first, indeed, Paul does not define the distinction so very precisely; but yet we shall see as we proceed, that his object is to afford good hope to the faithful, though they are bound to their flesh; only let them not give loose reins to its lusts, but give themselves up to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

By saying that carnal men care for, or think upon, the things of the flesh, he shows that he did not count those as carnal who aspire after celestial righteousness, but those who wholly devote themselves to the world. I have rendered φρονουσιν by a word of larger meaning, cogitant — think, that readers may understand that those only are excluded from being the children of God who, being given to the allurements of the flesh, apply their minds and study to depraved lusts. 244244     The verb φρονέω as Leigh justly says, includes the action of the mind, will, and affections, but mostly in Scripture it expresses the action of the will and affections. It means to understand, to desire, and to relish or delight in a thing. It is rendered here by Erasmus and Vatablus, “curant — care for;” by Beza, Pareus, and the Vulgate, “sapiunt — relish or savour;” by Doddridge and Macknight, “mind,” as in our version; and by Stuart, “concern themselves with.” It evidently means attention, regard, pursuit and delight, — the act of the will and affections, rather than that of the mind.
   “The verb,” says Turrettin, “means not only to think of, to understand, to attend to a thing; but also to mind it,to value it, and to take great delight in it. — Ed.
Now, in the second clause he encourages the faithful to entertain good hope, provided they find that they are raised up by the Spirit to the meditation of righteousness: for wherever the Spirit reigns, it is an evidence of the saving grace of God; as the grace of God does not exist where the Spirit being extinguished the reign of the flesh prevails. But I will briefly repeat here what I have reminded you of before, — That to be in the flesh, or, after the flesh, is the same thing as to be without the gift of regeneration: 245245     Jerome says, that to be in the flesh is to be in a married state! How superstition perverts the mind! and then the perverted mind perverts the word of God. — Ed. and such are all they who continue, as they commonly say, in pure naturals, (Puris naturalibus.)

6. The minding of the flesh, etc. Erasmus has rendered it “affection,” (affectum;) the old translator, “prudence,” (prudentiam.) But as it is certain that the το φρονημα of Paul is the same with what Moses calls the imagination (figmentum — devising) of the heart, (Genesis 6:5;) and that under this word are included all the faculties of the soul — reason, understanding, and affections, it seems to me that minding (cogitatio — thinking, imagining, caring) is a more suitable word 246246     It is difficult to find a word to express the idea here intended. It is evident that τὸ φρόνημα τὢς σαρκὸς is the abstract of “minding the things of the flesh,” in the preceding verse. The mindedness, rather than the minding of the flesh, would be most correct. But the phrase is no doubt Hebraistic, the adjective is put as a noun in the genitive case, so that its right version is, “The carnal mind;” and “mind” is to be taken in the wide sense of the verb, as including the whole soul, understanding, will, and affections. The phrase is thus given in the next verse in our version; and it is the most correct rendering. The mind of the flesh is its thoughts, desires, likings, and delight. This carnal mind is death, i.e., spiritual death now, leading to that which is eternal; or death, as being under condemnation, and producing wretchedness and misery; it is also enmity towards God, including in its very spirit hatred and antipathy to God. On the other hand, “the spiritual mind” is “life,” i.e., a divine life, a living principle of holiness, accompanied with “peace,” which is true happiness; or life by justification, and “peace” with God as the fruit of it.
   The word φρόνημα is only found in one other place, in Romans 8:27, — “the mind,” wish, or desire “of the Spirit.” — Ed.
And though Paul uses the particle γὰρ — for, yet I doubt not but that is only a simple confirmative, for there is here a kind of concession; for after having briefly defined what it is to be in the flesh, he now subjoins the end that awaits all who are slaves to the flesh. Thus by stating the contrary effect, he proves, that they cannot be partakers of the favor of Christ, who abide in the flesh, for through the whole course of their life they proceed and hasten unto death.

This passage deserves special notice; for we hence learn, that we, while following the course of nature, rush headlong into death; for we, of ourselves, contrive nothing but what ends in ruin. But he immediately adds another clause, to teach us, that if anything in us tends to life, it is what the Spirit produces; for no spark of life proceeds from our flesh.

The minding of the Spirit he calls life, for it is life-giving, or leads to life; and by peace he designates, after the manner of the Hebrews, every kind of happiness; for whatever the Spirit of God works in us tends to our felicity. There is, however, no reason why any one should on this account attribute salvation to works; for though God begins our salvation, and at length completes it by renewing us after his own image; yet the only cause is his good pleasure, whereby he makes us partakers of Christ.

7. Because the minding of the flesh, 247247     The order which the Apostle observes ought to be noticed. He begins in Romans 8:5, or at the end of Romans 8:4, with two characters — the carnal and, the spiritual. He takes the carnal first, because it is the first as to us in order of time. And here he does not reverse the order, as he sometimes does, when the case admits it, but goes on first with the carnal man, and then, in Romans 8:9 to 11, he describes the spiritual. — Ed. etc. He subjoins a proof of what he had stated, — that nothing proceeds from the efforts of our flesh but death, because it contends as an enemy against the will of God. Now the will of God is the rule of righteousness; it hence follows, that whatever is unjust is contrary to it; and what is unjust at the same time brings death. But while God is adverse, and is offended, in vain does any one expect life; for his wrath must be necessarily followed by death, which is the avenging of his wrath. But let us observe here, that the will of man is in all things opposed to the divine will; for, as much as what is crooked differs from what is straight, so much must be the difference between us and God.

For to the law of God, etc. This is an explanation of the former sentence; and it shows how all the thinkings (meditationes) of the flesh carry on war against the will of God; for his will cannot be assailed but where he has revealed it. In the law God shows what pleases him: hence they who wish really to find out how far they agree with God must test all their purposes and practices by this rule. For though nothing is done in this world, except by the secret governing providence of God; yet to say, under this pretext, that nothing is done but what he approves, (nihil nisi eo approbante fieri,) is intolerable blasphemy; and on this subject some fanatics are wrangling at this day. The law has set the difference between right and wrong plainly and distinctly before our eyes, and to seek it in a deep labyrinth, what sottishness is it! The Lord has indeed, as I have said, his hidden counsel, by which he regulates all things as he pleases; but as it is incomprehensible to us, let us know that we are to refrain from too curious an investigation of it. Let this in the mean time remain as a fixed principle, — that nothing pleases him but righteousness, and also, that no right estimate can be made of our works but by the law, in which he has faithfully testified what he approves and disapproves.

Nor can be. Behold the power of free-will! which the Sophists cannot carry high enough. Doubtless, Paul affirms here, in express words, what they openly detest, — that it is impossible for us to render our powers subject to the law. They boast that the heart can turn to either side, provide it be aided by the influence of the Spirit, and that a free choice of good or evil is in our power, when the Spirit only brings help; but it is ours to choose or refuse. They also imagine some good emotions, by which we become of ourselves prepared. Paul, on the contrary, declares, that the heart is full of hardness and indomitable contumacy, so that it is never moved naturally to undertake the yoke of God; nor does he speak of this or of that faculty, but speaking indefinitely, he throws into one bundle all the emotions which arise within us. 248248     Stuart attempts to evade this conclusion, but rather in an odd way. The whole amount, as he seems to say, of what the Apostle declares, is that this φρόνημα σαρκός itself is not subject, and cannot be, to the law of God; but whether the sinner who cherishes it “is actuated by other principles and motives,” the expression, he says, does not seem satisfactorily to determine. Hence he stigmatizes with the name of “metaphysical reasoning” the doctrine of man’s moral inability, without divine grace, to turn to God — a doctrine which Luther, Calvin, and our own Reformers equally maintained. The Apostle does not only speak abstractedly, but he applies what he advances to individuals, and concludes by saying, So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Who and what can bring them out of this state? The influence of “other principles and motives,” or the grace of God? This is no metaphysical question, and the answer to it determines the point. Our other American brother, Barnes, seems also to deprecate this doctrine of moral inability, and makes distinctions to no purpose, attempting to separate the carnal mind from him in whom it exists, as though man could be in a neutral state, neither in the flesh nor in the Spirit. “It is an expression,” as our third American brother, Hodge, justly observes, “applied to all unrenewed persons, as those who are not in the flesh are in the Spirit.” — Ed. Far, then, from a Christian heart be this heathen philosophy respecting the liberty of the will. Let every one acknowledge himself to be the servant of sin, as he is in reality, that he may be made free, being set at liberty by the grace of Christ: to glory in any other liberty is the highest folly.

8. They then who are in the flesh, etc. It is not without reason that I have rendered the adversative δὲ as an illative: for the Apostle infers from what had been said, that those who give themselves up to be guided by the lusts of the flesh, are all of them abominable before God; and he has thus far confirmed this truth, — that all who walk not after the Spirit are alienated from Christ, for they are without any spiritual life.

9. But ye, etc. He applies hypothetically a general truth to those to whom he was writing; not only that by directing his discourse to them particularly he might more powerfully affect them, but also that they might with certainty gather from the description already given, that they were of the number of those, from whom Christ had taken away the curse of the law. Yet, at the same time, by explaining what the Spirit of God works in the elect, and what fruit he brings forth, he encourages them to strive after newness of life.

If indeed the Spirit of God, etc. This qualifying sentence is fitly subjoined, by which they were stirred up to examine themselves more closely, lest they should profess the name of Christ in vain. And it is the surest mark by which the children of God are distinguished from the children of the world, when by the Spirit of God they are renewed unto purity and holiness. It seems at the same time to have been his purpose, not so much to detect hypocrisy, as to suggest reasons for glorying against the absurd zealots of the law, who esteem the dead letter of more importance than the inward power of the Spirit, who gives life to the law.

But this passage shows, that what Paul has hitherto meant by the Spirit, is not the mind or understanding (which is called the superior part of the soul by the advocates of freewill) but a celestial gift; for he shows that those are spiritual, not such as obey reason through their own will, but such as God rules by his Spirit. Nor are they yet said to be according to the Spirit, because they are filled with God’s Spirit, (which is now the case with none,) but because they have the Spirit dwelling in them, though they find some remains of the flesh still remaining in them: at the same time it cannot dwell in them without having the superiority; for it must be observed that man’s state is known by the power that bears rule in him.

But if any have not the Spirit of Christ, etc. He subjoins this to show how necessary in Christians is the denial of the flesh. The reign of the Spirit is the abolition of the flesh. Those in whom the Spirit reigns not, belong not to Christ; then they are not Christians who serve the flesh; for they who separate Christ from his own Spirit make him like a dead image or a carcase. And we must always bear in mind what the Apostle has intimated, that gratuitous remission of sins can never be separated from the Spirit of regeneration; for this would be as it were to rend Christ asunder.

If this be true, it is strange that we are accused of arrogance by the adversaries of the gospel, because we dare to avow that the Spirit of Christ dwells in us: for we must either deny Christ, or confess that we become Christians through his Spirit. It is indeed dreadful to hear that men have so departed from the word of the Lord, that they not only vaunt that they are Christians without God’s Spirit, but also ridicule the faith of others: but such is the philosophy of the Papists.

But let readers observe here, that the Spirit is, without any distinction, called sometimes the Spirit of God the Father, and sometimes the Spirit of Christ; and thus called, not only because his whole fulness was poured on Christ as our Mediator and head, so that from him a portion might descend on each of us, but also because he is equally the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, who have one essence, and the same eternal divinity. As, however, we have no intercourse with God except through Christ, the Apostle wisely descends to Christ from the Father, who seems to be far off:

10. But if Christ be in us, etc. What he had before said of the Spirit he says now of Christ, in order that the mode of Christ’s dwelling in us might be intimated; for as by the Spirit he consecrates us as temples to himself, so by the same he dwells in us. But what we have before referred to, he now explains more fully — that the children of God are counted spiritual, not on the ground of a full and complete perfection, but only on account of the newness of life that is begun in them. And he anticipates here an occasion of doubt, which might have otherwise disturbed us; for though the Spirit possesses a part of us, we yet see another part still under the power of death. He then gives this answer — that the power of quickening is in the Spirit of Christ, which will be effectual in swallowing up our mortality. He hence concludes that we must patiently wait until the relics of sin be entirely abolished.

Readers have been already reminded, that by the word Spirit they are not to understand the soul, but the Spirit of regeneration; and Paul calls the Spirit life, not only because he lives and reigns in us, but also because he quickens us by his power, until at length, having destroyed the mortal fesh, he perfectly renews us. So, on the other hand, the word body signifies that gross mass which is not yet purified by the Spirit of God from earthly dregs, which delight in nothing but what is gross; for it would be otherwise absurd to ascribe to the body the fault of sin: besides the soul is so far from being life that it does not of itself live. The meaning of Paul then is — that although sin adjudges us to death as far as the corruption of our first nature remains in us, yet that the Spirit of God is its conqueror: nor is it any hindrance, that we are only favored with the first-fruits, for even one spark of the Spirit is the seed of life. 249249     There are mainly two explanations of this verse and the following, with some shades of difference. The one is given here; according to which “the body,” and “bodies,” are taken figuratively for nature corrupted by sin; the “body,” as it is flesh, or corrupted, is “dead,” is crucified, or doomed to die “on account of sin;” and this “body,” or these “bodies,” which are mortal, and especially so as to their corruption, are to be quickened, revived, and made subservient to the will of God. It appears that this is essentially the view taken by Chrysostom, and also by Erasmus, Locke, Marckius, and by Stuart and Barnes. It is said that νέκρον and θνητα have the same meaning with “crucified” and “destroyed,” in Romans 6:6, and “dead,” in Romans 6:7, 8, and “dead,” in Romans 6:11, and “mortal,” in Romans 6:12. And as to the meaning of ζωοποίησει, is “shall quicken,” reference is made to Colossians 2:12, 13; Ephesians 1:19, 20; Ephesians 2:5, 6. It is also added, that the words “mortify the deeds of the body,” in Romans 8:13, confirm this view.
   The other explanation, adopted by Augustine, and also by Pareus, Vitringa, Turrettin, Doddridge, Scott, Chalmers, Haldane, and Hodge, is the following, — The “body,” and “bodies,” are to be taken literally, and the spirit, in the 10th verse, is the renewed man, or the renewed soul, which has or possesses “life” through the righteousness of Christ, or is made to enjoy life through the righteousness implanted by the Spirit. The meaning then is this, “The body is dead through sin, is doomed to die because of sin; but the spirit is life through righteousness, the soul renewed has life through Christ’s righteousness: but the dying body, now tabernacled by the Spirit, shall also be quickened and made immortal through the mighty power of the divine Spirit.” Thus salvation shall be complete when the “redemption of the body” shall come. See Romans 8:23.

   While the two views are theologically correct, the latter is that which is the most consonant with the usual phraseology of Scripture, though the former seems the most suitable to the context. The subject evidently is the work of the Spirit in mortifying sin, and in bestowing and sustaining spiritual life. The inference in the next verse seems favorable to this view. — Ed.

11. If the Spirit, etc. This is a confirmation of the last verse, derived from the efficient cause, and according to this sense, — “Since by the power of God’s Spirit Christ was raised, and since the Spirit possesses eternal power, he will also exert the same with regard to us.” And he takes it as granted, that in the person of Christ was exhibited a specimen of the power which belongs to the whole body of the Church: and as he makes God the author of the resurrection, he assigns to him a life-giving Spirit.

Who raised, etc. By this periphrasis he describes God; which harmonizes better with his present object, than if he had called him simply by his own name. For the same reason he assigns to the Father the glory of raising Christ; for it more clearly proved what he had in view, than if he had ascribed the act to Christ himself. For it might have been objected, “That Christ was able by his own power to raise up himself, and this is what no man can do.” But when he says, that God raised up Christ by his Spirit, and that he also communicated his Spirit to us, there is nothing that can be alleged to the contrary; so that he thus makes sure to us the hope of resurrection. Nor is there anything here that derogates from that declaration in John,

“I have power to lay down my life, and to take it up again.”
(John 10:18.)

No doubt Christ arose through his own power; but as he is wont to attribute to the Father whatever Divine power he possesses, so the Apostle has not improperly transferred to the Father what was especially done by Christ, as the peculiar work of divinity.

By mortal bodies he understands all those things which still remain in us, that are subject to death; for his usual practice is to give this name to the grosser part of us. We hence conclude, that he speaks not of the last resurrection, which shall be in a moment, but of the continued working of the Spirit, by which he gradually mortifies the relics of the flesh and renews in us a celestial life.




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