By David Brown
Chapter VIII - THE COMPLETENESS OF THEM THAT ARE IN CHRIST JESUS STRETCHING OVER ALL TIME INTO ETERNITY
In this surpassing chapter the several streams of the preceding arguments meet and flow in one "river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, "until it seems to lose itself in the ocean of a blissful eternity.
1-13. Indwelling corruption overcome through the indwelling of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
1. There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus. The inference here drawn (in the word "therefore ") is in part from the immediately preceding context, but much more from all that precedes:—'We may now, therefore, hold it as an established truth, that dire and deadly as is the struggle we have depicted between the law of the renewed mind and the law of sin in our members, it is the struggle, after all, of those who cannot but come well out of it—of those who, being '' in Christ Jesus, "have the very standing before God of Christ Himself.' At the same time, this is no mere legal arrangement—it is a union in life; believers, through the indwelling of Christ's Spirit in them, having one life with Him, as truly as the head and the members of the same body have one life.1
2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me (that is, as soon as I was "in Christ Jesus") free ('set me at liberty') from the law of sin and death. As the sense of this verse must rule that of the profound verse which follows it, and two very different senses of it have been contended for, it must be examined with some care. By "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," some of the elder German divines, followed by some in our own day, understand the Gospel. In accordance with this, they naturally take "the law of sin and death" to mean the law of God. The reasons for this view are thus stated by Hodge:—(1) This verse is intended to explain why there is no condemnation to believers; now, if it means (as most critics hold) that the regenerating power of the Spirit frees believers from the power of their inward corruption, it will follow that our regeneration is the cause of our justification, which is totally opposed to the apostle's teaching. But if this verse is understood to express the believer's deliverance from the condemning law of God through the Gospel, it gives an adequate explanation of the statement of ver. 1. (2) The deliverance here spoken of is represented as one already accomplished: this is true of the believer's deliverance from the law through the Gospel, but is not true of his deliverance from indwelling corruption, which is a gradual process. The former, therefore, must give the true sense, the latter not. (3) The Gospel may justly be called "the law of the Spirit," as (in 2 Cor. iii. 8) "the ministration of the Spirit;" He being its author—while the law of God may be termed "the law of sin and death," as being productive of both, as the apostle himself says (chap. vii. 5, 13, etc.); and if this is correct, the subject of this and the immediately following verses will be seen to be not sanctification (as most critics suppose), but justification. These reasons, however, appear to us quite insufficient to justify so unnatural an interpretation. (1) The most plausible argument is that ver. 2 is intended to explain why there is no condemnation to believers; but the sense which such critics give to ver. 2 makes it no explanation, but a mere reiteration of the statement of ver. 1, only in another form. (2) The believer's deliverance from the dominion of indwelling sin through union to Christ is an accomplished fact, as much as his justification; and the gradual mortification of it in daily life, through the growing strength of the renewed principle, is quite consistent with this. (3) To make "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus "mean simply the Gospel, is to put (as it appears to us) a strained, not to say a shallow, sense on so rich an expression; while to suppose that the apostle calls the holy law of God "the law of sin and death," is something repulsive. To use the words of Eraser, who, without knowing it, almost echoed the words of Chrysostom against some who before him had taken the same view of this verse (the passage will be found in 'Philippi,' p. 280), 'It were not consistent with the reverence due to the law of God, nor with the truth, to call it "the law of sin and death." Yea, it could not be so called but in plain contradiction to the vindication the apostle had made of it (chap. vii. 7), "Is the law sin? God forbid; "and ver. 13, "Was that which is good made death to me? God forbid.'" No, it is the Holy Ghost who is here meant. And before we notice the import of the statement itself, it is important for the student of this Epistle to observe that only once before has the Holy Ghost been expressly named in this Epistle (in chap. v. 5), and that only now and here does His Personal Agency in believers begin to be treated. Little space, indeed, does that subject occupy. The formal treatment of it is limited to the first twenty-six verses of this chapter. But within this space some of the richest matter, dear to Christian experience, is compressed; and as almost every verse in this portion opens up some fresh view of the Spirit's work, the light which it throws upon this vital department of the work of redemption is out of all proportion to the space which it fills.
Let us now observe the import of this pregnant phrase, "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," He is called "the Spirit of life," as opening up in the souls of believers a fountain of spiritual life (see John vii. 38, 39); just as he is called "the Spirit of truth," as "guiding them into all truth" (John xvi. 13), and "the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord "(Isa. xi. 2), as the Inspirer of these qualities. And He is called "the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," because it is as members of Christ that He takes up His abode in believers, who in consequence of this have one life with their Head. And as the word "law" here has, beyond all reasonable doubt, the same meaning as in chap. vii. 23—namely, 'an inward principle of action, operating with the fixedness and regularity of a law'—it thus appears that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus "here means, 1 that new principle of action which the Spirit of Christ has opened up within us—the law of our new being.' This "sets us free," as soon as it takes possession of our inner man, "from the law of sin and death,"—from the enslaving power of that corrupt principle which carries death in its bosom. The "strong man armed" is overpowered by the "Stronger than he;" the weaker principle is dethroned and expelled by the more powerful; the principle of spiritual life prevails against and brings into captivity the principle of spiritual death—" leading captivity captive." If this now be the apostle's meaning, the "For," with which the verse opens, does not assign the reason, but supplies the evidence of what goes before (as in Luke vii. 47, and other places); in other words, the meaning is not, 'There is no condemnation to believers, because they have got the better of their inward corruption '(very different doctrine this, certainly, from the apostle's); but 'The triumph of believers over their inward corruption, through the power of Christ's Spirit in them, proves them to be in Christ Jesus, and as such absolved from condemnation.' This completely meets the only objection to our view of the verse which we think has any weight. But this is now to be explained more fully,
3. For what the law could not do, etc. 'Few texts (says Fraser truly) have been more teased with the criticisms of the learned, which do often tend rather to darken than to give light to it, or to the subject of it; 'and Fritzsche refers to the exceeding difference that obtains among interpreters, both as to the structure of the verse and the explanation of its meaning. But this is hardly to be wondered at, considering the very unusual structure of the clause, and the equally unusual language of the entire statement. Let us examine it, clause by clause. What, then, was it that "the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh "? 'It could not justify the breakers of it,' say those who think that Justification is the subject of these verses. But it cannot be said with propriety that the reason why the law could not justify the guilty was that it was "weak through the flesh," or by reason of our corruption. It is clearly, we think, the law's inability to free us from the dominion of sin that the apostle has in view; as has partly appeared already (see on ver. 2), and will more fully appear presently. The law could irritate our sinful nature into more virulent action, as we have seen in chap. vii. 5; but it could not secure its own fulfilment. How that is accomplished comes now to be shown. in that it was weak through the flesh—not 'because of the flesh,' as the English reader would suppose, but 'through the medium of the flesh,' as the Greek preposition means; that is, having to address itself to us through a corrupt nature, too strong to be influenced by mere commands and threatenings. God, etc. The sentence is somewhat imperfect in its structure, which occasions a certain obscurity. It has been proposed to fill it up thus: 'What the law could not do. . . God [did by] sending,' etc. But it is as well to leave it without any supplement, understanding it to mean, that whereas the law was powerless to secure its own fulfilment—for the reason given—God took the method now to be described for attaining that end. sending his own Son. This and similar expressions most plainly imply (as Meyer properly notices) that Christ was God's "OWN SON" before He was sent—that is, in His own proper Person, and independently of His mission and appearance in the flesh (see on chap. viii. 32; Gal. iv. 4); and if so, He not only has the very nature of God, even as a son has his father's nature, but is essentially of the Father, though in a sense too mysterious for any language of ours properly to define (see on chap. i. 4). But why is this peculiar relationship put forward here? To enhance the greatness and define the nature of the relief provided as coming from beyond the precincts of sinful humanity altogether, yea, immediately from the Godhead itself in the likeness of sinful flesh—Gr. 'in the likeness of the flesh of sin,' a very remarkable and pregnant expression. 'It is not in the likeness of flesh'—for truly He "was made flesh "(John xi. 14)—but 'in the likeness of the flesh of sin; 'in other words, He was made in the reality of our flesh, but not in the sinfulness of our flesh—only in the likeness of its sinful condition. He took our nature, not as Adam received it from his Maker's hand, but as it is in us—compassed with infirmities—with nothing to distinguish Him as man from sinful men, save that He was without sin. Nor does this mean that Christ took every property of Humanity save sin; for sin is no property of Humanity at all, but only the disordered state of our own souls, as the fallen family of Adam—a disorder affecting and overspreading our whole nature, indeed, but still purely our own. and as an offering for sin—Gr, 'and about sin.' Had this been a quite unusual expression, it might have meant simply, 'on the business of sin.' Bat since this very phrase is profusely employed in the LXX. to denote the Levitical 'offerings for sin '(nearly sixty times in the one Book of Leviticus), and since in that sense it is twice used in the Epistle to the Hebrews (x. 6, 8)—in a quotation from Ps. xl.—we cannot reasonably doubt that this (which is the marginal reading of our own version) was the sense intended by the apostle, and that it would be so understood by all his readers who were familiar with the Greek of the Old Testament. The meaning, then, in this view of it, is that God accomplished what the law could not, by the mission of His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh; yet not by His mere Incarnation, but by sending Him in the character of a sin-offering (compare, for the language, 2 Cor. v. 21—"He hath made Him to be sin for us"). Still, the question returns, What was it that God did by the mission of His Son as a sin-offering in our nature, when the law could not do it? The apostle's answer is, He condemned sin in the flesh—not in order to the pardon of it; for justification, as we have seen, is not the thing here intended, but 'inflicted on it judicial vengeance in the flesh of Christ,' and so condemned it to lose its hold over men—at once to let go its iron grasp, and ultimately to be driven clean away from the domain of human nature in the redeemed. In this glorious sense our Lord says of His approaching death (John xii. 31), "Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out;" and again (John xvi. 11), "When He (the Spirit) is come, He shall convince the world of. . . judgment, because the prince of this world is Judged"—i.e., condemned to let go his hold of men, who through the Cross shall be emancipated into the liberty and power to be holy. We may add to these expository remarks, that Luther—who seldom goes far wrong—has entirely missed the sense of the expression, "and for sin." Connecting it, not with the 'sending' of Christ, but with His 'condemning sin 'when sent, he translates thus: He 'condemned sin in the flesh through sin,' which, if it be sense at all, yields only a bad sense. 4. that the requirement (or 'righteous demand ') of the law (for that is the precise sense of this form of the word 'righteousness;' see on chap. v. 16)—the practical obedience which the law calls for—might be fulfilled in us—might be realized in us. Calvin and others after him take this to mean, 'that the justifying righteousness of the law might be imputed to us; 'partly because they (some of them at least) take justification still to be the subject discoursed of; partly because they hold it untrue that the righteousness of the law is any otherwise fulfilled in us; and partly because they think that if our own personal obedience were meant, the second clause of the verse would be but a repetition of the first. But is it not unnatural to suppose that the apostle is still dwelling on justification, of which he had already treated so largely? And what is it that this conveys which had not been over and over again expressed, and, according to their own interpretation, once or twice said even in the preceding verses? Nor is it a wholesome thing, as we think, to be so very jealous of any expression that sounds like an assertion that believers fulfil the requirements of the law. For, do they not do so? And is it not the express object of chap, vi., in the first part of it, to shew that they do, and in the second to bid believers accordingly see that they do? That their obedience is not perfect is no more a truth than that it is a real and acceptable obedience through Christ. (As to the use of the passive voice here, "might be fulfilled "in us, it seems far-fetched to infer that it is used 'to shew that the work is not ours, but God's, by His grace.') who walk. This is the most ancient of all expressions to denote 'the bent of one's life,' whether in the direction of good or of evil (see Gen. v. 24, vi. 9, xlviii. 15; Ps. i. 1; Isa. ii. 5; Mic. iv. 5; Mai. ii. 6; Luke i. 6; Eph. iv. 17; 1 John i. 6, 7). not after (according to the dictates of) the flesh, but after the spirit.
5. For they that are after ('according to') the flesh—under the dominating influence of the fleshly principle, do mind the things of the flesh —give their engrossing attention to them: compare Phil. iii. 19, "who mind earthly things," and Matt. xvi. 23 (Gr.). Men must be under the predominating influence of one or other of these two principles, and, according as the one or the other has the mastery will be the complexion of their life, the character of their actions. Character is determined by the bent of our thoughts, feelings, and pursuits. 6. For to have the mind of the flesh is death, but to have the mind of the spirit is life and peace. The word means 'to be engrossed '(or 'taken up') with. It is the same word as a noun which in the foregoing verse is used as a verb 'to mind 'the things of the flesh and the things of the spirit; and what the apostle here says is that 'to have the mind of the flesh '(or be bent on fleshly ends) not only terminates in death, but even now carries death in its bosom (see Eph. a. 1-5; 1 Tim. v. 6); whereas 'to have the mind of the spirit '(or be bent on spiritual ends) is not only "life" (in contrast with what the other is) but "peace"—the very element of the soul's deepest repose and true bliss. 7. because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be:—'The pursuit of carnal ends is itself a state of enmity against God, being in direct violation of His commands; and in such a state of mind there is no subjection to the law of God, nor can there be.' 8. and so they that are, in the flesh cannot please God:—Many things may be done by them which the law requires, but nothing either is or can be done because God's law requires it, or purely to please God. The obediential principle being wanting, there is neither desire nor capacity to please God.
9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. This does not mean 'if you have spiritual inclinations or dispositions,' but 'if the Holy Ghost dwelleth in you '(see I Cor. vi. 11, 19, iii. 16, etc.). It thus appears that to be "in the spirit" means here, not to be under the power of God's Spirit, but to be under the dominion of our own renewed mind; for the indwelling of God's Spirit is given as the evidence that we are "in the spirit." But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. It is as "the Spirit of Christ "that the Holy Ghost takes possession of believers, introducing into them all the gracious dove-like dispositions which dwelt in Him (Matt. iii. 16; John iii. 34). Now if any man's heart is void, not of such dispositions, but of the blessed Author of them, "the Spirit of Christ," he is none of his—though intellectually convinced of the truth of Christianity, and even in a general sense influenced by its spirit. Sharp, solemn teaching this!
10. And if Christ is in you—by His indwelling Spirit, in virtue of which we have one life with Him. the body is dead because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness. Expositors are not quite agreed as to the precise import of this verse; but the following verse seems to fix the sense to the mortality of the bodies of believers—'If Christ is in you by His indwelling Spirit, though your "bodies" have to pass through the stage of "death," in consequence of the first Adam's "sin," your spirit is instinct with new and undying "life," brought in by the "righteousness" of the second Adam.'
11. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you—'If He dwelleth in you as the Spirit of the Christ-raising One,' or 'in all the resurrection-power which He put forth in raising Jesus,' he that raised up Christ Jesus (such is the true reading) from the dead. Observe here the significant change of name from JESUS, as the historical Individual whom God raised from the dead, to CHRIST, the same Individual considered as the Lord and Head of all His members, or of redeemed Humanity. 'Jesus (says Bengel) points to Himself; Christ to us: The one, as His proper name, relates to His Person; the other, as an appellative, to His office.' shall quicken also your mortal bodies through his Spirit that dwelleth in you:—'Your bodies indeed are not exempt from the death which sin brought in, but your spirits even now have in them an undying life; and if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, even these bodies of yours, though they yield to the last enemy and the dust of them returns to the dust as it was, shall yet experience the same resurrection as that of their living Head, in virtue of the indwelling of the same Spirit in you that quickened Him.'
12. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh:—'Emancipated from the tyrannous service of Sin into the service of Righteousness, we owe nothing now to the flesh; we disown its claims, and are deaf to its imperious demands.' Glorious truth! 13. for if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die—Gr. 'are about to die.' The future here employed, as distinguished from the simple future, denotes an action either already begun or in immediate preparation; and if that shade of meaning was intended, the truth expressed will be, that a life of carnality is not only the sure prelude to the death that never dies (ver. 21), but is providing materials for it (see Gal. vi. 7, 8). But as only the simple future is used in the next and corresponding clause, but if by the spirit (or the Spirit)2 ye mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live: perhaps only the certainty of the two issues was meant to be expressed. The apostle is not satisfied with assuring them that they are under no obligations to the flesh, to hearken to its suggestions, without reminding them where it will end if they do; and he uses the word "mortify "(put to death) as a kind of play upon the word "die "just before—q. d., 'If ye do not kill sin, it will kill you.' But he tempers this by the bright alternative, that if through the Spirit they mortify the deeds of the body, such a course will infallibly terminate in "life" everlasting. This leads the apostle into a new line of thought, opening into his final subject—the "glory "awaiting the justified believer. Before entering on this, however, there are three points in the verses just considered which should be impressed upon the mind of the reader.
14-27. The sonship of believers, their future inheritance, and the Spirit's, intercession for them.
The sonship of believers, and their inheritance as children.—14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. Observe the new light in which the Spirit is here held forth. In the preceding verses He was spoken of simply as a power or energy, in virtue of which believers mortify sin: now the apostle holds Him forth in His Personal character, as a gracious, loving GUIDE, whose "leading"—enjoyed by all in whom is the Spirit of God's own dear Son—proves them also to be "sons of God." 15. For ye received not—that is, when ye believed—the spirit of bondage again (gendering) unto fear—as when "under the law" which "worketh wrath:"—' Before ye believed ye lived in legal bondage, haunted with incessant forebodings under a sense of unpardoned sin; but it was not to perpetuate that wretched state that ye received the Spirit: 'but ye received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry. The word "cry "is emphatic, expressing the spontaneousness, the strength, and the exuberance of the filial emotions. In Gal. iv. 6, this cry is said to proceed from the Holy Spirit in us, drawing forth this filial exclamation in our hearts: here, it is said to proceed from our own hearts under the vitalizing energy of the Spirit, as the very element of the new life in believers (see on ver. 4, and compare Matt. x. 19, 20). But why does the apostle employ two synonymous words, Abba and Father? "Abba" is the Aramaic or SyroChaldaic word for "Father;" and the Greek word for this is added, not surely to tell his readers that both mean the same thing, but for the same reason which drew both words from the lips of Christ Himself during His Agony in the Garden. He doubtless loved to utter His Father's name in both the accustomed forms, beginning with His cherished mother-tongue, and adding that of the learned; just as the Highlanders of Scotland, accustomed equally to Gaelic and English, do in their devotions pass naturally from the language of their childhood to that in which all their education had been received. In this view the use of both words here has a charming simplicity and warmth.
16. The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God. It is one of the great gains of the Revised Version that it uses here not the neuter pronoun "itself" (as in the Authorised Version), but the masculine pronoun "Himself" of the Personal agency of the Holy Ghost in the souls of believers. In Greek the pronoun behoved to be neuter, because the word for "Spirit "is neuter; but which of the two is to be used in English depends wholly on the nature of the thing spoken of; and here notably, not only is it a Person who is the Agent, but the action—"bearing witness"—is strictly a personal one. But how is the double witness to our sonship borne? The testimony of our own spirit is borne in that cry of conscious sonship, "Abba, Father;" but it seems we are not therein alone, for the Holy Ghost within us—yea, even in that very cry which it is His to draw forth—sets His own distinct seal to ours; and thus, "in the mouth of two witnesses" the thing is established.
and if children, then heirs; heirs of God—of our Father's kingdom: compare Gal. iv. 7, "and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ;" and joint-heirs with Christ—as the "first-born among many brethren "(ver. 29), and as Himself "Heir of all things" (Heb. i. 2; compare Rev. iii. 21, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne"), if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. This necessity of conformity to Christ in suffering, in order to participation in His glory, is taught alike by Christ Himself and by His apostles (John xii. 24-26; Matt. xvi. 24, 25; 2 Tim. ii. 12). 18. For I reckon (or 'judge')—an expression not of doubt but of reflection:—'For when I speak of our having to "suffer with Christ," I regard it as nothing.' that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. The glory as here expressed is not so much the glorified condition of believers themselves as that which shall break upon them in the celestial state. The spirit of the whole statement maybe thus conveyed: 'True, we must suffer with Christ, if we would partake of His glory; but what of that? For if such sufferings are set over against the coming glory, they sink into insignificance.'
This suffering and expectant state of believers shared in by all creation (19-23). Overpowered with a sense of the glory awaiting the joint-heirs with Christ, the apostle is not content with saying that "the sufferings of this present season are not worthy to be compared with "it; but, seeing all creation in sympathy with this double attitude of the Church—of suffering and expectancy—he breaks forth here into a grand poetic picture of it. 19. For the earnest expectation of the creation. The word here used is exceedingly strong, denoting a continuous 'watching,' or 'pursuing as with outstretched head '(used nowhere else in the N. T. but in Phil. i. 20). waiteth. Here again the word is very strong—' awaiteth with eagerness '(ver. 23; Phil. iii. 20; Heb. ix. 28): for the revelation of the sons of God—when, by the redemption of their bodies from the grave, their now hidden sonship shall be revealed (as expressed in ver. 23). 20. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will—through any natural principle of decay. The apostle, personifying creation, represents it as only submitting to the vanity with which it was smitten, on man's account, in obedience to that superior power which had mysteriously linked its destinies with man's. And so he adds, but by reason of him who subjected it in hope; 21. because—or, 'by reason of him who subjected it in hope, that.' As the words will bear either sense, interpreters are divided as to which shade of thought was intended. We prefer that of the A. V. "because." Compare the same phrase "in hope" put absolutely, in Acts ii. 26; and in ver. 24 we shall find it in another but similar form, the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption—that is, from its bondage to the principle of decay, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God—meaning, into something of the same liberty which shall characterize the glorified state of the children of God themselves; in other words, the creation itself shall, in a glorious sense, be delivered into that same freedom from blight and debility, corruptibility and decay, in which the children of God, when raised up in glory, shall expatiate. 22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in vain together until now. 23. And not only so, but ourselves also—besides the inanimate creation, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit—meaning 'the Spirit as the first-fruits 'of our full redemption (compare 2 Cor. i. 22; Eph. i. 13, iv. 30—where the meaning is not "by which ye are sealed," as if the Spirit were the Author of the sealing, but "with which," the Spirit being Himself the seal). The Spirit, given to believers as the "first-fruits "of what awaits them in glory, moulds the heart to a heavenly frame, and attempers it to its future element: even we ourselves—notwithstanding that we have the first-fruits of heaven already within us, groan within ourselves—both under that "body of sin and death "which we carry about with us, and under the manifold "vanity and vexation of spirit "that are written upon every object and every pursuit and every enjoyment under the sun; waiting for (see on ver. 19) the adoption—meaning the revelation or manifestation of the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body—from the grave; for (as Bengel notes) that is not called liberty by which we are delivered from the body, but by which the body itself is liberated from death.
Such seems to us the simplest and most natural interpretation of this noble passage. But it has been much controverted. No one passage, indeed, has given rise to more controversy, and whole treatises have been written to discuss and expound it. Though the interpretations put upon it have been many, they are all reducible to three: First, that "the whole creation "here means 'the whole created universe,' as the yearning of all creature-life after its destined perfection. But unless it be maintained that the whole created universe was "made subject to vanity "through the sin of man, which would be absurd, this interpretation must be rejected as a mere dream. Next, that "the creation "here means 'the rational creation,' or 'mankind in general.' But how could it be said that mankind in general were 'unwillingly subjected to vanity,' since in this very Epistle the sin that brought this vanity upon them is represented as their own (chap. v. 12); and how could it be said that the rational creation, or mankind in general, were 'subjected to vanity, in hope of being delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God,' or, finally, that they are now "groaning and travailing in pain together, waiting for the adoption," etc.? It remains, then, lastly, since "the creation "here cannot mean Christians—for in ver. 23 they and it are expressly distinguished from each other—that it must mean, 'that creation which forms part of one system with man, yet exclusive of man himself.' So (although with considerable diversity in minor particulars) the great majority of interpreters. If for man's sake alone the earth was cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery. And if so, to represent it as sympathizing with man's miseries, and as looking forward to his complete redemption as the period of its own emancipation from its. present sin-blighted condition, is a beautiful thought, and in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture on the subject. (See 2 Pet. iii. 13.)
24. For in hope were we saved. The A. and R. Versions translate "by hope." But this makes hope the instrument of salvation, which it can only be in a very indirect sense. The natural meaning of the clause is, that our salvation (in the perfective sense of the preceding verses) in the present state is matter of hope rather than of actual possession. But hope that is seen is not hope: when the thing hoped for becomes possession it ceases to be hope, for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?3—for the one ends when the other begins. 25. But if we hope for what we see not, then do we with patience wait for it—patient waiting for it is then our fitting attitude.
The Spirit's intercession for the saints (26, 27).—26. And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity:4 —I have already shewn you the varied offices of the blessed Spirit towards believers—how He descends into their souls as the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, making them members of Christ, and one life with their glorious Head; how in the power of this new life they are freed from the law of sin and death, walking henceforth not after the flesh but after the Spirit, minding supremely the things of the Spirit, and through the Spirit mortifying the deeds of the body; how He dwells in them as the Guide of the sons of God, as the Spirit of adoption teaches them to cry "Abba, Father," witnesses with their spirit that they are children of God, and is in them as the first-fruits of their full redemption: but this is not all, for in like manner He "helpeth our infirmity;" not merely the one infirmity here specified, but the general 'weakness of the spiritual life,' of which the one example here given is sufficient: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought. It is not the proper matter of prayer that believers are at so much loss about, for the fullest directions are given them on this head; but to ask for the right things "as we ought" is the difficulty. The apostle himself prayed thrice for what was not granted, there being a better thing in store for him. There must needs be much dimness in the spiritual vision of those who have to walk by faith, not by sight (1 Cor. xiii. 9; 2 Cor. v. 7); and in the best views and affections of our renewed nature there is ever a large admixture of the ideas and feelings which spring from the fleeting objects of sense, not to speak of the necessary imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the subtle spiritual feelings of the heart. In these circumstances, how can it be but that much uncertainty should surround all our spiritual exercises, and that in our nearest approaches, and in the freest outpourings of our hearts to our Father in heaven, doubts should spring up within us whether our frame of mind in such exercises is altogether befitting and well-pleasing to God? Nor do these anxieties subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our spiritual experience, but the Spirit himself (see, on the personal sense of the pronoun in such places, on ver. 16) maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered—expressed in articulate language. 'As we struggle to express the desires of our hearts, and find that our deepest emotions are the most inexpressible, we "groan" under this felt inability. But not in vain are these groanings. For "the Spirit Himself" is in them, giving to the emotions which Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of inability to utter what we feel, they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf.' 27. and he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will (or 'mind ') of God. As the Searcher of hearts, He watches the surging emotions of them in prayer, and knows perfectly what the Spirit means by the groanings which He draws forth within us, because that blessed Intercessor pleads by them only for what God Himself designs to bestow.
28-39. Triumphant summary of the whole argument. In this incomparable section the apostle expatiates over the whole field of his preceding argument, his spirit swelling and soaring with his vast and lofty theme, and carrying his readers along with him, out of all the trials and tears and uncertainties of things present, into the region of cloudless and eternal day. To subdivide this section would be intolerable; for though between vers. 30 and 31 the apostle seems to draw his breath, so to speak, his thoughts thenceforward rush along like a cataract, and refuse to be arrested by any artificial breaks.
28. And we know that to them that love God, all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose. Two characteristics of believers are here given—one descriptive of their feeling towards God, the other of His feeling towards them; and each of these is selected with the evident view of suggesting the true explanation of the delightful assurance here conveyed, that all things are, and cannot but be, cooperating for good to such. Let us look at each of them, for it will be found that there is a glorious consistency between the eternal purposes of God and the free agency of men, though the link of connection is beyond human—probably even created—apprehension. First, "To them that love God all things are working together for good.' For, persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but mean them well in all His procedure, they fall naturally and sweetly in with it; and thus learning to take in good part whatever He sends to them, however trying to flesh and blood, they render it impossible—so to speak—that it should do other than minister to their good. But, again, "To them that are called according to His purpose all things are"—in the same intelligible way—"working together for good." Because, believing that there is such an eternal purpose, within the cloud of whose glory the humblest believer is enwrapt, they see "His chariot paved with love;" and knowing that it is in pursuance of this purpose of love that they have been "called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ "(1 Cor. i. 9), they naturally say within themselves, 'It cannot be that He "of Whom, and through Whom, and to Whom are all things," should suffer that purpose to be thwarted by anything really adverse to us, or that He should not make all things—dark as well as light, crooked as well as straight—to co-operate to the furtherance and final completion of His high design. And this the apostle says, "We know.'" It was a household word with the household of faith: not that, as here exhibited, it had perhaps ever before struck one of his readers; but as already observed, with the teaching they had already received and the Christian experience which was common to all who had tasted that the Lord was gracious, it had but to be put before them to be at once recognised as an undoubted and precious truth.
29. For whom he doth foreknow, he also foreordaineth.5 In what sense are we to take the word "foreknow" here? 'Those who He foreknew would repent and believe,' say Pelagians of every age and every hue. But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the whole spirit and even letter of the apostle's teaching. In such passages as chap. xi. 2, Ps. i. 6, Jer. i. 5, Amos iii. 2, Hos. xiii. 5, Gal. iv. 5, God's "knowledge" of His people cannot be restricted to a mere foresight of future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here below. Does "whom He did foreknow," then, mean 'whom He foreordained '? That can hardly be, since both words are here [used, and the thing meant by the one is spoken of as the cause of what is intended by the other. It is difficult, indeed, for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of the Divine Mind towards men, especially since, in Acts ii. 23, "the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in 1 Pet. i. 2 "election" is said to be "according to the foreknowledge of God." But probably God's "foreknowledge" of His own people means His peculiar, gracious complacency in them, while His "predestinating" or "foreordaining" them signifies His fixed purpose, flowing from this, to "save them and call them with a holy calling "(2 Tim. i. 9). Doubtless in this knowledge of them He beholds them in all that they ever will be as His; but all this is His own creation in them, according to Pauline teaching, to be conformed to the image of his Son—to be sons, that is, after the pattern or model of His Sonship in our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren—the First-born being the Son by nature, His "many brethren" sons by adoption: He, in the Humanity of the Only-begotten of the Father, bearing our sins on the accursed tree; they in that of men ready to perish, but redeemed from condemnation and wrath, and transformed into his likeness: He "the First-born from the dead;" they "that sleep in Jesus," to be in due time "brought with Him:" "The First-born," already "crowned with glory and honour;" His "many brethren," "when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as he is." 30. and whom he foreordaineth, them he also calleth. This word, according to Pauline usage, never means the mere outward call of the Gospel, addressed to all who hear it; for "many are called" in this sense who are not "chosen" (Matt. xxii. 14): it always means 'internally, efficaciously, savingly 'called,' and expresses the first step in the process of personal salvation, and whom he calleth, them he also justifieth—in the way so fully described in the preceding chapters: and whom he justifieth, them he also glorifieth (see on vers. 17, 18). Noble climax, and how rhythmically expressed! The whole process of salvation is viewed as one Divine idea in the Divine mind, that of bringing men into conformity with the image of His Son, as the First-born of a family of God, but realized in successive stages onwards to eternal glory.
31. What shall we then say to these things? As Bengel says, with his own unrivalled terseness, 'We can no further go, think, wish.' This whole passage, in fact—on to ver. 34, and even to the end of the chapter—strikes all thoughtful interpreters and readers as transcending almost everything in language. Well might Olshansen speak of the 'profound and colossal 'character of the thought. If God is for us, who can be against us? If God is resolved and engaged to bring us through, all our enemies must be His; and "Who would set the briers and thorns against Him in battle? He would go through them, He would burn them together" (Isa. xxvii. 4). What strong consolation is here! Nay, but the great pledge of all has already been given. For, 32. He—rather, 'He, surely.' It is a pity to lose the emphatic particle of the original, when it can be expressed idiomatically (as it cannot always be) in our own language. Bengel notices that full sweetness of exultation which this little particle here conveys, that spared not his own Son—'withheld not,' or 'kept not back His own (proper) Son.' Both of these most expressive phrases, as well as the entire thought, were suggested by Gen. xxii. 22 (as in the LXX.), where Jehovah's touching commendation of Abraham's conduct is designed to furnish something like a glimpse into the spirit of His own act in surrendering His own Son. "Take now (said the Lord to Abraham) thy son, [thine only, whom thou, lovest, and. . . offer him for a burnt-offering" (Gen. xxii. 2); and only when Abraham had all but performed that loftiest act of self-sacrifice, did the Lord interpose, saying, "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou HAST NOT WITHHELD THY SON, THINE ONLY SON, from me." In the light of this incident, then, and of this language, our apostle can mean to convey nothing less than this, that in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up," or surrendering Him, God exercised, in His Paternal character, a mysterious act of Self-sacrifice, which, though involving none of the pain and none of the loss which are inseparable from the very idea of self-sacrifice on our part, was not less real, but, on the contrary, as far transcended any such acts of ours as His nature is above the creature's. But this is inconceivable if Christ be not God's "own (or 'proper') Son," partaker of His very nature, as really as Isaac was of his father Abraham's. It was in that sense, undoubtedly, that the Jews charged our Lord with making Himself "equal with God" (John v. 18)—a charge which He in reply forthwith proceeded, not to disown, but to illustrate and confirm. Understand Christ's Sonship thus, and the language of Scripture regarding it is intelligible and harmonious; but take it to be an artificial relationship, ascribed to Him in virtue either of His miraculous birth or His resurrection from the dead, or the grandeur of His works, or all of these together—and the passages which speak of it neither explain themselves nor harmonize with each other, but delivered him up—not to death merely (as many take it), for that is too narrow an idea here, but 'surrendered Him,' in the most comprehensive sense: cf. John iii. 16, "God so loved the world that HE GAVE His only-begotten Son." for us all—all those of vers. 28-30, as is plain enough, how shall he not—'how can we conceive that He should not also (along) with him freely give us all things?—all other gifts being not only immeasurably less than this gift of gifts, but virtually wrapt up in it. 33. Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?6 34. It is Christ Jesus7 that died. A number of expositors read this as a question: "God that justifieth?" (Will He bring a charge against His own elect?) "Who is he that condemneth? Christ that died?" (Will He condemn them?) But besides that this 'creates an unnatural accumulation of questions, it is intolerable; for God is thus represented as the Judge; but it is the part of a judge not to accuse, but either to acquit or condemn the accused.' Such an idea is against all Scripture analogy, and could never come into the apostle's mind—that after he had spoken of God's being so for us that none can be against us, and His giving such a Gift as secures every other, and having on the ground of this challenged any to criminate God's elect—he should turn round and ask, if "God that justified" would at the same time criminate them, or "Christ that died" for them would at the same time "condemn "them. Plainly, it is to creatures only that he throws down the challenge, asking which of them would dare to bring a charge against those whom God has justified—would condemn those for whom Christ died, yea, rather, that is risen again8—to make good the purposes of His death. Here, as in some other cases, the apostle delightfully corrects himself (see on chap. i. 12, and Gal. iv. 9), not meaning that the resurrection of Christ is of more saving value than His death (for if He "died for our sins, He was raised again for our justification"); but that it is more delightful to think of Him as now "alive for evermore" to see to the efficacy of His death in our behalf, who is9 at the right hand of God. The right hand of the king was anciently the seat of honour (1 Sam. xx. 25; 1 Kings ii. 19; Ps. xlv. 9), and denoted participation in the royal power and glory (Matt. xx. 21). The classical writings have familiarized us with the same idea. Accordingly, Christ's sitting at the right hand of God—predicted in Ps. ex. I, and historically referred to in Mark xvi. 19; Acts ii. 33, vii. 56; Eph. i. 20; Col. iii. I; I Pet. iii. 22; Rev. iii. 21—signifies the glory of the exalted Son of man, and the Divine flozoer in the government of the world in which He participates. Hence it is called "sitting on the right hand of Power" (Matt. xxvi. 64), and "sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high "(Heb. i. 3). who also maketh intercession for us—using all His boundless interest with God in our behalf. 'His session (says Bengel) denotes Hispozuer to save us; His intercession, His will to do it.' But how are we to conceive of this intercession? Not as of one pleading 'on bended knees and with outstretched arms,' to use the expressive language of Calvin. But yet, neither is it merely a figurative intimation that the power of Christ's redemption is continually operative, nor only to shew the fervour and vehemence of His love for us: it cannot be taken to mean less than this, that the glorified Redeemer, conscious of His claims, expressly signifies His will that the efficacy of His death should be made good to the uttermost, and signifies it in some such royal style as we find Him employing in that wonderful Intercessory Prayer which he spoke as from within the veil (see John xvii. II, 12): "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given me be with me where I am." But in what form this will is expressed is as undiscoverable as it is unimportant.
35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? This does not mean 'our love to Christ,' as if one should say, Who shall hinder us from loving Christ? but 'Christ's love to us,' as is clear from the closing words of the chapter, which refer to the same subject. Nor would the other sense harmonize with the scope of the chapter, which is to exhibit the ample ground that there is for the believer's confidence in Christ, shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? —for none of these, nor all of them together, how terrible soever to the flesh, are tokens of God's wrath, or the least ground for doubt of His love. And from whom could such a question come better than from one who had himself for Christ's sake endured so much? (See 2 Cor. xi. 21-33; 1 Cor. iv. 10-13.) Calvin (says Tholuck) makes the noble reflection, that the apostle says not 'What,' but "Who"—just as if all creatures, and all afflictions, were so many gladiators taking arms against the Christians. 36. even as it is written (Ps. xliv. 22), For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. This is quoted as descriptive of what God's faithful people may expect from their enemies at any period when their hatred of righteousness is roused, and there is nothing to restrain it (see Gal. iv. 29). 37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. So far are they from 'separating us from Christ's love, that it is just "through Him that loved us" that we are victorious over them.' What an affecting view of the love of Christ does it give us to learn, that His greatest nearness to God and most powerful interest with Him—as "seated on His right hand"—is employed in behalf of His people here below! and what everlasting consolation and good hope through grace arise from the fact—as variously as it is grandly expressed in this section—that all that can help us is on the side of those who are Christ's, and all that can hurt us is a conquered foe! 38. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,10 nor things present, nor things to come—no condition of the present life, and none of the possibilities of the life to come. 39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature (or 'created thing '), any other thing in the whole created universe. 'All the terms here (as Olshausen says) are to be taken in their most general sense, and need no closer definition. The indefinite expressions are meant to denote all that can be thought of, and are only a rhetorical paraphrase of the conception of allncss. 'shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus does this wonderful chapter, with which the argument of the Epistle properly closes, leave us who are "justified by faith," in the arms of everlasting Love, whence no hostile power or conceivable event can ever tear us. "Behold what manner of love is this!" And "what manner of persons "ought "God's elect" to be, who are thus "blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ"—in humility', when they remember that He "hath saved them and called them, not according to their works, but according to His own purpose and grace, given them in Christ Jesus before the world began "(2 Tim. i. 9); in thankfulness, for "Who maketh thee to differ, and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?" (1 Cor. iv. 7); in godly jealousy over themselves, remembering that "God is not mocked," but "whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" (Gal. vi. 7); in "diligence to make our calling and election sure' (2 Pet. i. 10); and yet in calm confidence, that "whom God predestinates, and calls, and justifies, them (in due time) He also glorifies "(chap. viii. 30)?
1) The evidence against the genuineness of the words that follow, in the received text and A. V., is so strong that, on all the laws of textual evidence, they must be held to be no part of the original text. In this case they probably crept in from ver. 4, where they occur precisely as here, and no doubt they came to make the transition from the statement of ver. 1 to that of ver. 2 more easy. But they are far from improving the connection; for certainly the reason why there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ is not that they walk holily, though in point of fact they do so.
2) It is hardly possible to say in which shade of meaning the word "spirit" here is to be taken. What makes the former more probable is the form in which the clause is expressed in the Greek.
3) The reading of the R. V. here—"who hopeth for that which he seeth?"—seems less probable, on external as well as internal grounds.
4) The singular, "infirmity," is plainly the original reading here.
5) The tense employed in the fire verbs used in this and the following verse is the aorist, which when it expresses 'a principle 'or 'law of action 'is best expressed in English by the present tense. Thus, in Jas. i. 11, "The sun ariseth. . . and withereth the grass; and the flower falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth." In all these four verbs the aorist is the tense used, not the present; but were the aorist or preterite tense to be retained in English, every one must see that the intended idea would be lost upon the English ear. So in John xv. 6 ("is cast forth, and is withered"—not "was"); and so in other places. On this principle we venture to translate, as we doubt not the meaning here is, "Whom He doth foreknow, He also foreordaineth," etc.
6) It is better to read here the present than the future participle of the Greek (as in the R. V. "who is he that shall condemn ").
7) This seems the true reading here—perhaps with reference to the following words, "that died;" compare Matt. i. 21, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sin."
8) The R. V. reads, "that was raised from the dead," but on insufficient authority, as we judge.
9) The "even" here is probably not genuine.
10) The clause "nor powers"—if we are to be guided by external authorities alone—ought certainly to stand, not here, but at the close of the verse, which will then read thus: "nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers." But who can bring himself to believe that the apostle so wrote—that one of the harshest and baldest collocations of the conceivable enemies of believers was placed there by one who has here drawn up a catalogue otherwise perfect? How.' to account for this arrangement having found its way into so many mss., may be very difficult to say; but in the meantime we must hold the received order of the clauses as that of the apostle himself.