Romans 8:1-39 . CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE ARGUMENT--THE GLORIOUS COMPLETENESS OF THEM THAT ARE IN CHRIST JESUS.
20. For the creature--"the creation."
was made subject to vanity, not willingly--that is, through no 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 hath subjected the same--"who subjected it."
in hope--or "in hope that."
21. Because the creature itself also--"even the creation itself."
shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption--its bondage to the principle of decay.
into the glorious liberty--rather, "the liberty of the glory."
of the children of God--that is, the creation itself shall, in a glorious sense, be delivered into that freedom from debility and decay in which the children of God, when raised up in glory, shall expatiate: into this freedom from corruptibility the creation itself shall, in a glorious sense, be delivered (So CALVIN, BEZA, BENGEL, THOLUCK, OLSHAUSEN, DE WETTE, MEYER, PHILIPPI, HODGE, ALFORD, &c.).
22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now--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.
23. And not only they, but ourselves also--or "not only [so], but even we ourselves"--that is, besides the inanimate creation.
which have the first-fruits of the Spirit--or, "the Spirit as the first-fruits" of our full redemption (compare 2 Corinthians 1:22 ), moulding the heart to a heavenly frame and attempering it to its future element.
even we ourselves--though we have so much of heaven already within us.
groan within ourselves--under this "body of sin and death," 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 the--manifestation of our
adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body--from the grave: "not (be it observed) the deliverance of ourselves from the body, but the redemption of the body itself from the grave" [BENGEL].
24. For we are saved by hope--rather, "For in hope we are saved"; that is, it is more a salvation in hope than as yet in actual possession.
but hope that is seen is not hope--for the very meaning of hope is, the expectation that something now future will become present.
for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?--the latter ending when the other comes.
25. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it--that is, then, patient waiting for it is our fitting attitude.
26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also, &c.--or, "But after the like manner doth the Spirit also help.
our infirmities--rather (according to the true reading), "our infirmity"; not merely the one infirmity here specified, but the general weakness of the spiritual life in its present state, of which one example is here given.
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 they ought" is the difficulty. This arises partly from the dimness of our spiritual vision in the present veiled state, while we have to "walk by faith, not by sight" feelings which spring from the fleeting objects of sense that there is in the very best views and affections of our renewed nature; partly also from 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 itself--rather, "Himself." (See end of Romans 8:27 ).
maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered--that is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language. Sublime and affecting ideas, for which we are indebted to this passage alone! "As we struggle to express in articulate language 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 He Himself has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel, they are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our behalf."
27. And--rather, "But," inarticulate though these groanings be.
he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he--the Spirit
maketh intercession for the saints according to the will 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.
Note, (1) Are believers "led by the Spirit of God" ( Romans 8:14 )? How careful then should they be not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God" ( Ephesians 4:30 )! Compare Psalms 32:8 Psalms 32:9 : "I will . . . guide thee with Mine eye. Be not (then) as the horse, or as the mule," &c. (2) "The spirit of bondage," to which many Protestants are "all their lifetime subject," and the "doubtsome faith" which the Popish Church systematically inculcates, are both rebuked here, being in direct and painful contrast to that "spirit of adoption," and that witness of the Spirit, along with our own spirit, to the fact of our sonship, which it is here said the children of God, as such, enjoy ( Romans 8:15 Romans 8:16 ). (3) As suffering with Christ is the ordained preparation for participating in this glory, so the insignificance of the one as compared with the other cannot fail to lighten the sense of it, however bitter and protracted ( Romans 8:17 Romans 8:18 ). (4) It cannot but swell the heart of every intelligent Christian to think that if external nature has been mysteriously affected for evil by the fall of man, it only awaits his completed recovery, at the resurrection, to experience a corresponding emancipation from its blighted condition into undecaying life and unfading beauty ( Romans 8:19-23 ). (5) It is not when believers, through sinful "quenching of the Spirit," have the fewest and faintest glimpses of heaven, that they sigh most fervently to be there; but, on the contrary, when through the unobstructed working of the Spirit in their hearts, "the first-fruits" of the glory to be revealed are most largely and frequently tasted, then, and just for that reason, is it that they "groan within themselves" for full redemption ( Romans 8:23 ). For thus they reason:If such be the drops, what will the ocean be? If thus "to see through a glass darkly" be so very sweet, what will it be to "see face to face?" If when "my Beloved stands behind our wall, looking forth at the windows, showing Himself through the lattice" ( Solomon 2:9 )--that thin veil which parts the seen from the unseen--if He is even thus to me "Fairer than the children of men," what shall He be when He stands confessed before my undazzled vision, the Only-begotten of the Father in my own nature, and I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him as He is? (6) "The patience of hope" ( 1 Thessalonians 1:3 ) is the fitting attitude for those who with the joyful consciousness that they are already "saved" ( 2 Timothy 1:9 , Titus 3:5 ), have yet the painful consciousness that they are saved but in part: or, "that being justified by His grace, they are made (in the present state) heirs according to the hope (only) of eternal life," Titus 3:7 ( Romans 8:24 Romans 8:25 ). (7) As prayer is the breath of the spiritual life, and the believer's only effectual relief under the "infirmity" which attaches to his whole condition here below, how cheering is it to be assured that the blessed Spirit, cognizant of it all, comes in aid of it all; and in particular, that when believers, unable to articulate their case before God, can at times do nothing but lie "groaning" before the Lord, these inarticulate groanings are the Spirit's own vehicle for conveying into "the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth" their whole case; and come up before the Hearer of prayer as the Spirit's own intercession in their behalf, and that they are recognized by Him that sitteth on the Throne, as embodying only what His own "will" determined before to bestow upon them ( Romans 8:26 Romans 8:27 )! (8) What a view do these two verses ( Romans 8:26 Romans 8:27 ) give of the relations subsisting between the Divine Persons in the economy of redemption, and the harmony of their respective operations in the case of each of the redeemed!
THIRD: Triumphant Summary of the Whole Argument ( Romans 8:28-39 ).
28. And--or, "Moreover," or "Now"; noting a transition to a new particular.
we know, &c.--The order in the original is more striking: "We know that to them that love God" (compare 1 Corinthians 2:9 , Ephesians 6:24 , 1:12 , 2:5 ) "all things work together for good [even] to them who are the called (rather, 'who are called') according to His (eternal) purpose." Glorious assurance! And this, it seems, was a "household word," a "known" thing, among believers. This working of all things for good is done quite naturally to "them that love God," because such souls, persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but mean them well in all His procedure, learn thus to take in good part whatever He sends them, however trying to flesh and blood: and to them who are the called, according to "His purpose," all things do in the same intelligible way "work together for good"; for, even when "He hath His way in the whirlwind," they see "His chariot paved with love" ( Solomon 3:10 ). And knowing that it is in pursuance of an eternal "purpose" of love that they have been "called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ" ( 1 Corinthians 1:9 ), 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."
29. For--as touching this "calling according to his purpose" ( Romans 8:28 ).
whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate--foreordain. 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 (see Romans 9:11 , 2 Timothy 1:9 ). In Romans 11:2 , and Psalms 1:6 , 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?" Scarcely, because both "foreknowledge" and "foreordination" are here mentioned, and the one as the cause of 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 2:23 "the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in 1 Peter 1:2 "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 an holy calling" ( 2 Timothy 1:9 ).
to be conformed to the image of his Son--that is, to be His sons after the pattern, model, or image of His Sonship in our nature.
that he might be the first-born among many brethren--"The First-born," 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 mere men ready to perish by reason of sin, but redeemed by His blood 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," now "crowned with glory and honor"; His "many brethren," "when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is."
30. Moreover--"And," or "Now"; explanatory of Romans 8:29 --In "predestinating us to be conformed to the image of His Son" in final glory, He settled all the successive steps of it. Thus
whom he did predestinate, them he also called--The word "called" (as HODGE and others truly observe) is never in the Epistles of the New Testament applied to those who have only the outward invitation of the Gospel (as in Matthew 20:16 , 22:14 ). It always means "internally, effectually, savingly called." It denotes the first great step in personal salvation and answers to "conversion." Only the word conversion expresses the change of character which then takes place, whereas this "calling" expresses the divine authorship of the change, and the sovereign power by which we are summoned, Matthew-like, Zaccheus-like, out of our old, wretched, perishing condition, into a new, safe, blessed life.
and whom he called--thus.
them he also justified--brought into the definite state of reconciliation already so fully described.
and whom he justified, them he also glorified--brought to final glory ( Romans 8:17 Romans 8:18 ). Noble climax, and so rhythmically expressed! And all this is viewed as past; because, starting from the past decree of "predestination to be conformed to the image of God's Son" of which the other steps are but the successive unfoldings--all is beheld as one entire, eternally completed salvation.
31. What shall we then say to these things?--"We can no farther go, think, wish" [BENGEL]. This whole passage, to Romans 8:34 , and even to the end of the chapter, strikes all thoughtful interpreters and readers, as transcending almost every thing in language, while OLSHAUSEN notices the "profound and colossal" character of the thought.
If God be for us, who can be against us?--If God be 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" ( Isaiah 27:4 ). 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).
that spared not--"withheld not," "kept not back." This expressive phrase, as well as the whole thought, is suggested by Genesis 22:12 , where Jehovah's touching commendation of Abraham's conduct regarding his son Isaac seems 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" ( Genesis 22:2 ); and only when Abraham had all but performed that loftiest act of self-sacrifice, the Lord interposed, 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. In that sense, certainly, the Jews charged our Lord with making Himself "equal with 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 of themselves nor harmonize with each other.
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; compare John 3:16 , "God so loved the world that He GAVE His only-begotten Son."
for us all--that is, for all believers alike; as nearly every good interpreter admits must be the meaning here.
how shall he not--how can we conceive that He should not.
with him also--rather, "also with Him." (The word "also" is often so placed in our version as to obscure the sense;
freely give us all things?--all other gifts being not only immeasurably less than this Gift of gifts, but virtually included in it.
33, 34. Who shall lay anything to the charge of--or, "bring any charge against."
God's elect?--the first place in this Epistle where believers are styled "the elect." In what sense this is meant will appear in next chapter.
34. yea rather, that is risen again--to make good the purposes of His death. Here, as in some other cases, the apostle delightfully corrects himself (see Galatians 4:9 ; and was of more saving value than His death, but that having "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself"--which though precious to us was to Him of unmingled bitterness--it was incomparably more delightful to think that He was again alive, and living to see to the efficacy of His death in our behalf.
who is even--"also"
at the right hand of God--The right hand of the king was anciently the seat of honor (compare 1 Samuel 20:25 , 1 Kings 2:19 , Psalms 45:9 ), and denoted participation in the royal power and glory ( Matthew 20:21 ). The classical writings contain similar allusions. Accordingly Christ's sitting at the right hand of God--predicted in Psalms 110:1 , and historically referred to in 16:19 , Acts 2:33 , 7:56 , Ephesians 1:20 , Colossians 3:1 , 1 Peter 3:22 , Revelation 3:21 --signifies the glory of the exalted Son of man, and the power in the government of the world in which He participates. Hence it is called "sitting on the right hand of Power" ( Matthew 26:64 ), and "sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high" ( Hebrews 1:3 ) [PHILIPPI].
who also maketh intercession for us--using all His boundless interest with God in our behalf. This is the top of the climax. "His Session at God's right hand denotes His power to save us; His Intercession, His will to do it" [BENGEL]. But how are we to conceive of this intercession? Not certainly 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 [THOLUCK], or merely to show the fervor and vehemence of His love for us [CHRYSOSTOM]. 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 "Father, I WILL that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am" in what form this will is expressed is as undiscoverable as it is unimportant.
35, 36. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?--This does not mean "our love to Christ," as if, 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 of the believer's confidence in Christ. "It is no ground of confidence to assert, or even to feel, that we will never forsake Christ; but it is the strongest ground of assurance to be convinced that His love will never change" [HODGE].
shall tribulation, &c.--"None of these, nor all together, how terrible soever to the flesh, are tokens of God's wrath, or the least ground for doubt of His love. From whom could such a question come better than from one who had himself for Christ's sake endured so much? (See 2 Corinthians 11:11-33 , 1 Corinthians 4:10-13 ). The apostle says not (remarks CALVIN nobly) "What," but "Who," just as if all creatures and all afflictions were so many gladiators taking arms against the Christians [THOLUCK].
36. As it is written, For thy sake, &c.--( Psalms 44:22 )--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 Galatians 4:29 ).
37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us--not, "We are so far from being conquered by them, that they do us much good" [HODGE]; for though this be true, the word means simply, "We are pre-eminently conquerors." 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.
38, 39. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers--whether good or bad. But as the bad are not called "angels," or "principalities," or "powers," save with some addition to show that such are meant ( Matthew 25:41 , Colossians 2:15 , Ephesians 6:12 , 2 Peter 2:4 --except perhaps 1 Corinthians 6:3 ), probably the good are meant here, but merely as the same apostle supposes an angel from heaven to preach a false gospel. (So the best interpreters).
nor things present, nor things to come--no condition of the present life and none of the unknown possibilities of the life to come.
39. nor any other creature--rather, "created thing"--any other thing in the whole created universe of God
shall be able to separate us, &c.--"All the terms here 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 allness" [OLSHAUSEN].
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 we to be," who are thus "blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ?"
Note, (1) 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, perhaps created, apprehension ( Romans 8:28 ). (2) How ennobling is the thought that the complicated movements of the divine government of the world are all arranged in expressed furtherance of the "good" of God's chosen ( Romans 8:28 )! (3) To whatever conformity to the Son of God in dignity and glory, believers are or shall hereafter be raised, it will be the joy of everyone of them, as it is most fitting, "that in all things He should have the pre-eminence" ( Colossians 1:18 ), ( Romans 8:29 ). (4) "As there is a beautiful harmony and necessary connection between the several doctrines of grace, so must there be a like harmony in the character of the Christian. He cannot experience the joy and confidence flowing from his election without the humility which" the consideration of its being gratuitous must produce; nor can he have the peace of one who is justified without the holiness of one who is saved" ( Romans 8:29 Romans 8:30 ) [HODGE]. (5) However difficult it may be for finite minds to comprehend the emotions of the Divine Mind, let us never for a moment doubt that in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up for us all," God made a real sacrifice of all that was dearest to His heart, and that in so doing He meant for ever to assure His people that all other things which they need--inasmuch as they are nothing to this stupendous gift, and indeed but the necessary sequel of it--will in due time be forthcoming ( Romans 8:32 ). (6) In return for such a sacrifice on God's part, what can be considered too great on ours? (7) If there could be any doubt as to the meaning of the all-important word "JUSTIFICATION" in this Epistle--whether, as the Church of Rome teaches, and many others affirm, it means "infusing righteousness into the unholy, so as to make them righteous," or, according to Protestant teaching, "absolving, acquitting, or pronouncing righteous the guilty" Romans 8:33 ought to set such doubt entirely at rest. For the apostle's question in this verse is, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?" In other words, "Who shall pronounce" or "hold them guilty?" seeing that "God justifies" them: showing beyond all doubt, that to "justify" was intended to express precisely the opposite of "holding guilty"; and consequently (as CALVIN triumphantly argues) that it means "to absolve from the charge of guilt." (8) If there could be any reasonable doubt in what light the death of Christ is to be regarded in this Epistle, Romans 8:34 ought to set that doubt entirely at rest. For there the apostle's question is, Who shall "condemn" God's elect, since "Christ died" for them; showing beyond all doubt (as PHILIPPI justly argues) that it was the expiatory (character of that death which the apostle had in view). (9) 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 ( Romans 8:34 )! (10) "The whole universe, with all that it contains, so far as it is good, is the friend and ally of the Christian; and, so far as it is evil, is more than a conquered foe" ( Romans 8:35-39 ) [HODGE]. (11) Are we who "have tasted that the Lord is gracious," both "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation" ( 1 Peter 1:5 ), and embraced in the arms of Invincible Love? Then surely, while "building ourselves up on our most holy faith," and "praying in the Holy Ghost," only the more should we feel constrained to "keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" ( Jude 1:20 Jude 1:21 ).