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Commentary on Romans
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Romans 8:19-22

19. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

19. Siquidem intenta expectatio creaturae, revelationem filiorum Dei expectat:

20. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

20. Vanitati enim creatura subjecta est non volens, sed propter eum qui subjecit ipsam in spe;

21. Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

21. Quoniam ipsa quoque creatura asseretur a servitute corruptionis in libertatem gloriæ filiorum Dei.

22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.

22. Novimus enim quod creatura universa congemiscit, et ad hunc diem parturit.

19 For the intent expectation of the creation, etc. He teaches us that there is an example of the patience, to which he had exhorted us, even in mute creatures. For, to omit various interpretations, I understand the passage to have this meaning — that there is no element and no part of the world which, being touched, as it were, with a sense of its present misery, does not intensely hope for a resurrection. He indeed lays down two things, — that all are creatures in distress, — and yet that they are sustained by hope. And it hence also appears how immense is the value of eternal glory, that it can excite and draw all things to desire it.

Further, the expression, expectation expects, or waits for, though somewhat unusual, yet has a most suitable meaning; for he meant to intimate, that all creatures, seized with great anxiety and held in suspense with great desire, look for that day which shall openly exhibit the glory of the children of God. The revelation of God’s children shall be, when we shall be like God, according to what John says,

“For though we know that we are now his sons, yet it appears not yet what we shall be.” (1 John 3:2.)

But I have retained the words of Paul; for bolder than what is meet is the version of Erasmus, “Until the sons of God shall be manifest;” nor does it sufficiently express the meaning of the Apostle; for he means not, that the sons of God shall be manifested in the last day, but that it shall be then made known how desirable and blessed their condition will be, when they shall put off corruption and put on celestial glory. But he ascribes hope to creatures void of reason for this end, — that the faithful may open their eyes to behold the invisible life, though as yet it lies hid under a mean garb.

20. For to vanity has the creation, etc. He shows the object of expectation from what is of an opposite character; for as creatures, being now subject to corruption, cannot be restored until the sons of God shall be wholly restore; hence they, longing for their renewal, look forward to the manifestation of the celestial kingdom. He says, that they have been subjected to vanity, and for this reason, because they abide not in a constant and durable state, but being as it were evanescent and unstable, they pass away swiftly; for no doubt he sets vanity in opposition to a perfect state.

Not willingly, etc. Since there is no reason in such creatures, their will is to be taken no doubt for their natural inclination, according to which the whole nature of things tends to its own preservation and perfection: whatever then is detained under corruption suffers violence, nature being unwilling and repugnant. But he introduces all parts of the world, by a sort of personification, as being endued with reason; and he does this in order to shame our stupidity, when the uncertain fluctuation of this world, which we see, does not raise our minds to higher things.

But on account of him, etc. He sets before us an example of obedience in all created things, and adds, that it springs from hope; for hence comes the alacrity of the sun and moon, and of all the stars in their constant courses, hence is the sedulity of the earth’s obedience in bringing forth fruits, hence is the unwearied motion of the air, hence is the prompt tendency to flow in water. God has given to everything its charge; and he has not only by a distinct order commanded what he would to be done, but also implanted inwardly the hope of renovation. For in the sad disorder which followed the fall of Adam, the whole machinery of the world would have instantly become deranged, and all its parts would have failed had not some hidden strength supported them. It would have been then wholly inconsistent that the earnest of the Spirit should be less efficacious in the children of God than hidden instinct in the lifeless parts of creation. How much soever then created things do naturally incline another way; yet as it has pleased God to bring them under vanity, they obey his order; and as he has given them a hope of a better condition, with this they sustain themselves, deferring their desire, until the incorruption promised to them shall be revealed. He now, by a kind of personification, ascribes hope to them, as he did will before.

21. Because the creation itself, etc. He shows how the creation has in hope been made subject to vanity; that is, inasmuch as it shall some time be made free, according to what Isaiah testifies, and what Peter confirms still more clearly. It is then indeed meet for us to consider what a dreadful curse we have deserved, since all created things in themselves blameless, both on earth and in the visible heaven, undergo punishment for our sins; for it has not happened through their own fault, that they are liable to corruption. Thus the condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures. It hence also appears to what excelling glory the sons of God shall be exalted; for all creatures shall be renewed in order to amplify it, and to render it illustrious.

But he means not that all creatures shall be partakers of the same glory with the sons of God; but that they, according to their nature, shall be participators of a better condition; for God will restore to a perfect state the world, now fallen, together with mankind. But what that perfection will be, as to beasts as well as plants and metals, it is not meet nor right in us to inquire more curiously; for the chief effect of corruption is decay. Some subtle men, but hardly sober-minded, inquire whether all kinds of animals will be immortal; but if reins be given to speculations where will they at length lead us? Let us then be content with this simple doctrine, — that such will be the constitution and the complete order of things, that nothing will be deformed or fading.

22. For we know, etc. He repeats the same sentiment, that he might pass over to us, though what is now said has the effect and the form of a conclusion; for as creatures are subject to corruption, not through their natural desire, but through the appointment of God, and then, as they have a hope of being hereafter freed from corruption, it hence follows, that they groan like a woman in travail until they shall be delivered. But it is a most suitable similitude; it shows that the groaning of which he speaks will not be in vain and without effect; for it will at length bring forth a joyful and blessed fruit. The meaning is, that creatures are not content in their present state, and yet that they are not so distressed that they pine away without a prospect of a remedy, but that they are as it were in travail; for a restoration to a better state awaits them. By saying that they groan together, he does not mean that they are united together by mutual anxiety, but he joins them as companions to us. The particle hitherto, or, to this day, serves to alleviate the weariness of daily languor; for if creatures have continued for so many ages in their groaning, how inexcusable will our softness or sloth be if we faint during the short course of a shadowy life. 259259     The various opinions which have been given on these verses are referred to at some length by Stuart; and he enumerates not less than eleven, but considers only two as entitled to special attention — the material creation, animate and inanimate, as held here by Calvin, and the rational creation, including mankind, with the exception of Christians, which he himself maintains. In favor of the first he names Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Œcumenius, Jerome, Ambrose, Luther, Koppe, Doddridge, (this is not correct,) Flatt, and Tholuck; to whom may be added Scott, Haldane, and Chalmers, though Scott, rather inconsistently with the words of the text, if the material creation including animals be meant, regards as a reverie their resurrection; see Romans 8:21.
   After a minute discussion of various points, Stuart avows his preference to the opinion, that the creature” means mankind in general, as being the least liable to objections; and he mentions as its advocates Lightfoot, Locke, Turrettin, Semler, Rosenmüller, and others. He might have added Augustine. Reference is made for the meaning of the word “creature” to Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23; and 1 Peter 2:13.

   It appears from Wolfius, that the greater part of the Lutheran and Reformed Divines have entertained the first opinion, that the “creature” means the world, rational and animal; to which he himself mainly accedes; and what he considers next to this, as the most tenable, is the notion, that the “creature” means the faithful, that “the sons of God” are the blessed in heaven, and that the Apostles and apostolic men were those who enjoyed “the first-fruits of the Spirit.”

   This last opinion relieves us from difficulties which press on all other expositions; and it may be extricated from objections which have been made to it; only the last sentence needs not be introduced. The whole passage, from Romans 8:18 to the end of Romans 8:25, is in character with the usual style of the Apostle. He finishes the first part with Romans 8:22; and then in the second part he announces the same thing in a different form, in more explicit terms, and with some additions. The “waiting” in Romans 8:19, has a correspondent “waiting” in Romans 8:23; and “the hope” in Romans 8:20, has another “hope” to correspond with it in Romans 8:24; and correspondent too is “the manifestation of the sons of God” in verse 19, and “the redemption of our body” in Romans 8:23. To reiterate the same truth in a different way was to make a deeper impression, and accordant with the Apostles manner of writing. He begins the second time, after Romans 8:22, in which is stated the condition of the whole world; and it is in contrast with that alone that Romans 8:23 is to be viewed, which restates and explains what had been previously said, so that “the creature” are the “we ourselves;” and the Apostle proceeds with the subject to end of the 25th verse. Instances of the same sort of arrangement are to be found in Romans 2:17-24; Romans 11:33-36.

   Romans 8:21 may be considered as an explanation only of the “hope,” at the end of Romans 8:20; “For even it, the creature,” though subjected to vanity, “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption;” which means the same as “this body of death,” in Romans 7:24.

   The word κτίσις, means, 1. creation, the world, Mark 10:6; Mark 13:19; Romans 1:20; 2 Peter 3:4: — 2, what is created — creature, what is formed — a building, what is instituted — an ordinance, Romans 1:25; 8:39; Hebrews 4:13; Hebrews 9:11; 1 Peter 2:13: — 3, mankind, the world of men, Mark 16:15; Colossians 1:23: — 4, the renewed man, or renewed nature — Christians, 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15. There are only two other places where it is found, and is rendered in our version “creation,” Colossians 1:15, and Revelation 3:14

   It is objected to its application here to Christians, because where it has this meaning, it is preceded by καινὴ, new. The same objection stands against applying it to mankind in general, for in these instances push precedes it. Its meaning must be gathered from the whole passage, and we must not stop at the end of verse 23, but include the two following verses. — Ed.


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