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The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Believer: as Against the Flesh, verses 1-13; as Witnessing our Sonship and Heirship—even though Suffering, verses 14-25; As Helping our Infirmity by Intercession, verses 26, 27.
God’s Great Purpose in His Elect: Conformity to Christ’s Image, and Association with Him: Their Heavenly Destiny. All Earthly Providences for their Good. Verses 28-30.
Triumphant Response of Faith to These Things! Verses 31-34.
No Separation from God’s Love, since it is IN Christ Jesus our Lord! Verses 35-39.
1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed me from, the law of sin and of death.
3 For, (the thing the Law could not do, because it was powerless on account of the flesh) God, having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 that the righteous result of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
5 For those who are according to flesh, the things of the flesh do mind; but those according to Spirit, peace. 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: 8 and those being in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His 10 And if Christ is in you, the body, indeed, is dead on account of sin; but the Spirit is life on account of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you. He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies through His Spirit that dwelleth in you.
WE HAVE NOW COME to that great chapter which sets forth that part in our salvation which is exercised by the third Person of the Godhead, the blessed Holy Spirit. Without Christ’s work on the cross there would be no salvation, and without the presence and constant operation of the Holy Spirit, there would be no application of that salvation to us,—indeed, no revelation of it to us!
Let us therefore with the profoundest reverence, and greatest gladness, take up the study here in Romans Eight of that work of the Holy Spirit which is directly concerned with our salvation: for Romans is a book of salvation. Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the message that concerns salvation. Christ Jesus and Him glorified is that which concerns our perfecting as believers. The latter, other epistles will unfold more fully. But the teaching of the work of the Holy Ghost in Romans regards His fundamental operations,—just as it is fundamental phases of Christ’s work that are presented here.
The Eighth Chapter of Romans is the instinctive goal of the Christian. Whether or not he can tell why—whether or not he can give the great doctrinal facts that give him comfort here, he is, nevertheless, like a storm-tossed mariner who has arrived at his home port, and has cast anchor, when he comes into Romans Eight!
The reasons are:
1. He finds himself in the hands of the blessed Comforter, the indwelling Spirit, in whose almighty and loving ministry he finds “life and peace.”
2. He finds himself, without cause in himself, called “God’s elect,”—involved in a great Divine purpose, that will end in his being conformed to Christ’s image, Christ being “the First-born among many brethren.”
3. He finds himself beloved in Christ; and therefore never to be “separated” from that love.
And these are both the “upper and nether springs” of eternal comfort.
This Eighth of Romans, then, comes after the work of Christ—after His atoning blood has put the believer’s sins away; after he has seen, also, that he died with Christ,—to sin, and also to that legal responsibility he had in Adam; after the words, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under Law, but under Grace”; and, finally, after the hopeless struggle of the apostle has shown “the flesh” to be incurably bad; and that there is a blessed deliverance, which, though not changing “the body of this death,” nevertheless gives freedom therefrom “through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Verses 1, 2: There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus freed me from the law of sin and of death.
Therefore looks back to the struggle of Chapter Seven, and the thankful shout of verse 25; and not to the expiatory work of Christ for us in Chapters 3:21-5:11. Those that are in Christ Jesus, and none others, can be before us in all this section.
It is on account of the Spirit’s acting as a law of life, delivering the believer from the contrary law of sin and death in his yet unredeemed members, that there is no condemnation. It is of the utmost importance to see this. The subject here is no longer Christ’s work for us, but the Spirit’s work within us. Without the Spirit within as a law of life, there would be nothing but condemnation: for the new creature has no power within himself apart from the blessed Spirit,—as against a life of perpetual bondage to the flesh,—“the end of which things is death” (6:21).
Now the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer as set forth in Chapter Eight is fundamental, essential to the believer’s salvation and must be understood by all of us, for Romans is the book of foundation truth.
In Christ Jesus—Here the verse should end, as see note below.165165 The Revised Version correctly omits “who walk not after the
flesh but after the Spirit.” Since the King James translation, over 300 years ago,
many., and the best, most accurate, ancient Greek manuscripts which we have, have
been recovered; and earnest, godly men have gone steadily ahead with the tedious
but fruitful work of correcting errors that had crept in in copying. For, as we
all know, we have not the original manuscripts of Scripture: God has been pleased
to withhold these from creatures so prone to idolatry as the sons of men.
We must close verse 1 with the words “in Christ Jesus,” for four reasons: (1) The evidence of the Greek manuscripts is overwhelmingly in favor of the omission of the clause “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit” from verse 1,—as the evidence is universally for including these words in Verse 4. (2) Spiritual discernment also agrees, for the introduction of these words in verse I makes our safety depend upon our walk, and not upon the Spirit of God, But all in Christ Jesus are safe from condemnation, as is plainly taught throughout the epistles. Otherwise, our security depends on our walk, and not on our position in Christ. (3) The clause is plainly in proper place at the end of verse 4,—where the manner of the believer’s walk, not his safety, from condemnation, is described. (4) That the clause at the end of verse 1 in the King James is a gloss (marginal note by some copyist) appears not only from its omission by the great uncial manuscripts, Aleph, A, B, C, D, F, G; A, D (corr.); with some good cursives and ancient versions (see Olshausen, Meyer, Alford, J. F. and B., and Darby’s excellent discussion in his Synopsis, in loc); but it also appears from the similarity of this gloss to like additions made through legal fear, found in other passages.
That God chose to have His Word translated and still authoritative is seen from the use in the New Testament of the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint.
We should thank God for those devoted men who have spent their lifetimes in profound study of the manuscripts God has left us, and who have given us so marvelously perfect a translation as we have. We should distinguish such scholars absolutely and forever from the arrogant “Modernists” (or, in former days, the “Higher Critics”). who undertake to tell us what God ought to say in the Bible, rather than with deep humility seeking to find out what God has said. The words in Christ Jesus express that glorious place God has given the believer. The question is not at all now one of justification, but one of position, in Christ Risen, “where condemnation is not, and cannot be.” There cannot be degrees here: men either are in Christ, or not in Him.
There is no condemnation—Those in Christ Jesus have more than justification from all things by His blood. They have “justification of life,” which means that they share His risen life. No condemnation—means, no condemnatory judgment. The question of rewards for work for our Lord will indeed come up at His judgment seat—bēma (II Cor. 5:10); but it is after the Church is caught up that this judgment occurs, when Christ comes, “apart from sin, to them that wait for Him.” Blessed hope! (See Heb. 9:28.)
For166166Here we have at the very beginning of the chapter, one of the most common words of argument in Paul’s epistles—for (Gr. gar). It occurs some 17 times in this Eighth Chapter, and about one half as many in Chapter Seven, etc. In general, it assigns the reason. Let us not be among those who avoid Paul’s epistles because of the mental attention they demand. Most people would rather read a novel or go to the picture shows than study. A chapter with 17 “fors” in it, is closely knit, and must be patiently followed. Unmeasured blessing will result. the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, freed me from the law of sin and of death. “The law” in both occurrences here indicates “a given principle acting uniformly.” Now as to “the law of sin and of death,” the latter part of Chapter Seven made abundantly clear what that was—the power of sin working in our unredeemed bodies against which even man’s renewed will was powerless.
But now, another “law” has come in: not only has the believer life in the Risen Christ, but to him has been given the Holy Spirit as the power of that life: so that the Spirit becomes the Almighty Agent within the believer, securing him wholly, making effectual in experience that “deliverance which Paul saw when he cried in Chapter 7:24, 25: “Who shall deliver me out of the body of this death? I thank God [for deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Of course, the deliverance167167John Wesley’s testimony is well known, concerning the beginning of his life of real faith (in his 35th year, after 13 years in a relatively common-place ministry): “In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death. For the next 53 years Wesley was “the outstanding figure and the greatest force in the English speaking world.” But notice that he realized at Aldersgate Street, the two great elements of our salvation: (1) forgiveness of sin’s guilt; and (2) deliverance from sin’s power—from the law of sin and death! is through Christ, for it is Christ’s own risen life the believer now shares. But it is the blessed Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” who makes the deliverance an experience. That is, the constant operation of the Spirit makes effectual in those who have life in Christ Jesus, that deliverance which belongs to those in Christ.
How wonderful, how limitless, the patience of the blessed Spirit of God! Moment by moment, day by day, month by month, year by year, through all the conscious and unconscious processes of tens of thousands of believers, the Spirit acts with a uniformity that is called “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” In the newest convert, in the oldest saint, He gives freedom from the law of sin and of death! “Sin in the flesh, which was my torment, is already judged, but in Another; so that there is for me no condemnation on account of the flesh. . . . We lose communion with God, and dishonor the Lord by our behavior, in not walking, according to the Spirit of life, worthy of the Lord. But we are no longer under the law of sin, but, having died with Christ, and become partakers of a new life in Him and of the Holy Spirit, we are delivered from this law.”
Verses 3, 4: For, (the thing the Law could not do, because it was powerless on account of the flesh), God, having sent His own Son in the likeness of flesh of sin, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteous result of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to flesh, but according to Spirit.
Several things appear at once from this passage:
1. God did a thing that the Law could not do.
2. The thing that God did was to make possible a holy life for those walking by His indwelling Spirit.
3. The reason that the Law was unable to bring about this holy life, lay in the flesh (Greek, sarks), the “mind” of which (verse 7) is enmity against God, and not subject to His Law or Will. Thus, though the Law was holy, just, and good, in itself, it only irritated by its commands a sinful flesh that was not subject to it.
4. God’s plan (which, we must remember, is “apart from law,” without law’s help or “rule,” but the very opposite—3.21; 6:14; 7:4, 6) was to send His own Son, who had a body “prepared for Him” (Heb. 10:5), and was born according to the angel’s words to Mary in Luke 1:35:
“The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee: wherefore also that which is to be born shall be called holy, the Son of God.” So, although sinless, our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the likeness of “flesh of sin,”—in the likeness of the bodies of the children of Adam, bodies under bondage to sin.
5. God’s purpose, as revealed in this passage, was to get at sin as connected with human flesh, and deal with it at the cross in the way of righteous condemnation, so that sin would no longer have rights in human bodies. The preposition “for” (Gr. peri) in the words and for sin is the common word in the Septuagint for sacrifices for sin. But it refers here in Romans 8:3 not so much to atonement for sin’s guilt before God,—that has already been fully set forth in Chapters Three to Five. The question here (and in Chapters Six to Eight entire) regards the thing Sin itself rather than its guilt.168168“The expression is purposely a general one, because the design was not to speak of Christ’s mission to atone for sin, but, in virtue of that atonement, to destroy its dominion and extirpate it altogether from believers. We think it wrong, therefore, to render the words (as in margin) “by a sacrifice for sin” (peri hamartias) for this sense is too definite, and makes the idea of expiation more prominent than it is”—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown.
It is of the very first importance for the believer to recognize the two great facts which Paul develops concerning Christ’s work on the cross:
First, His blood shed for us in expiation of our guilt. Considering this, one always thinks of the righteous claims of God’s throne against us, and of their being satisfied, fully met, by Christ’s shed blood; and of our being thus brought nigh to God.
Second, Our death with Christ, as “made sin for us.” Because of our condition of sinfulness, as connected with Adam, and thus “in the flesh,” we died with Christ. When we believed upon Him, Christ became our Adam, and God dated our history back to Calvary, and commanded us to reckon ourselves dead to sin because we died with Him federally,—thus our history in Adam was ended before God: so that He plainly says to us, “Ye are not in flesh”—where once we were: Chapters 8:9 and 7:5. Compare Eph. 2:1-3.
Now, in Chapter 8.3, God goes more explicitly into having Christ identified with us, made to become sin on our behalf, our old man crucified with Him. It was that God might thus condemn sin in the flesh, dealing with it judicially: as connected potentially with the whole human race, and actually with believers.
When Adam sinned, his federal relationship involved all his posterity in condemnation (5:18, 19), but he also “begat a son in His own likeness.” ALL since Adam have participated in the fallen nature of Adam. “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.” “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” “We [now believers] were by nature children of wrath.”
Now, human thoughts and philosophies, being under, and recognizing, this proneness to evil, and referring it to the body as the conscious abode of sin and source of sin’s lusts and temptations, have praised a disembodied state as the only desirable one. Not only the Manicheans and the Buddhists, but real Christians who ought to know better, have regarded a disembodied spiritual state as their hope: “This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise,” etc. “Modernists” today, generally,—as unbelievers in all periods, deny the resurrection of the material body.
But in Romans 8:3 God tells us that sin as connected with flesh has been condemned, dealt with; although it has not yet been removed. Some pious and very earnest people have spoken of and sought after “eradication of the sin-principle from the body.” But the redemption of the body lies in the future, at Christ’s coming. Meanwhile, “We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened; not for that we would be unclothed, [disembodied spirits] but that we would be clothed upon . . . with our habitation which is from Heaven” (our glorified bodies at Christ’s coming): “that what is mortal may be swallowed up of life” (II Cor. 5:4).
But the foundation both for the resurrection of the sleeping saints when Christ comes, and for the changing of living believers, lies here in Romans 8:3: sin has been condemned as connected with human flesh. This gives God, speaking reverently, the righteous right to transform and catch up into glory the bodies of His saints.
It also gives the Risen Christ the glorious right to live in these bodies of ours while they are on earth; and to walk in us, therefore, daily, in resurrection victory! The only condition of such victorious life, is that we ourselves walk by that indwelling Spirit which has been given to us.
Again, speaking reverently, the Spirit has no commission in this dispensation to go beyond the work done by our Lord on the cross. But that work on the cross was perfect, and far-reaching indeed. Not only did Christ there put away our guilt before God by His blood, but there our old man was crucified with Him: sin was condemned as having any connection with human flesh!
And for sin—The evident reference to the second phase of the sin-offering is apparent in these words. The question in this verse is not one of atonement for guilt, but of the dealing in judgment with that which was not to be atoned for! The evil of our natures is not atoned for, but judged, at the cross. The first phase of the sin-offering of Leviticus Four is the sprinkling of the blood before Jehovah, outside the veil of the most holy place, and the putting of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before Jehovah, which golden altar, according to Heb. 9:3, 4 pertained to the holy of holies, the Shechinah presence of God; and the pouring out at the base of the brazen altar at the door of the tabernacle, the rest of the blood; together with the burning of the fat—symbol of the inner affections—upon that brazen altar.
This first phase is seen to represent the power of the shed blood of Christ to bring us nigh to God—always the first thing.
Then the second phase is seen in verses 11 and 12 (Lev 4), where
—“the whole bullock shall he carry forth without the camp unto a clean place, where the ashes are poured out, and burn it on wood with fire: where the ashes are poured out shall it be burnt.”
Here, surely, is something further than the putting away of guilt by the shed blood. The fire, burning to ashes that sin-offering, seems to indicate God’s holy dealing with sin itself, after the shed blood has made the offerer nigh. It surely has a most solemn significance, for there is no atonement to be made for our evil nature.
At the cross, God having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and having laid on Him as our Substitute our sins, now secures that opportunity which He sought—to deal with sin itself as connected with flesh. And He did deal in judgment. Sin, as connected with flesh, is a condemned, though not yet removed, thing.169169God condemned, or, as you might say, executed sin in the flesh for us by the death of Christ. He did not die only for my sins (though that’s true), but for my sin. The root of sin that is in my nature, and that which worries and distresses the heart of the sincere believer daily, is put away for faith by death, and we are dead to it . . . God has settled the question, condemned the sin in you, which you condemn. But where has He done it? Outside of yourself altogether . . . He takes away the condemnation of sin in the nature, by God’s judgment being executed on the sinless flesh of His own Son. Thus sin in my flesh is judged, as well as my committed sins”—Darby, Notes on Romans, in loc.
The thing the Law could not do—was accomplished by God! The law was powerless on account of the flesh. The Law holy, just and good, could command; but the flesh was not subject to it, and could not be. Therefore the Law could forbid, rebuke, reprimand, and curse, sin; but could not effectually condemn it, as connected with the flesh. When Christ comes, thank God, we shall be freed from the very presence of sin. But it has already been condemned in the flesh, and should be reckoned so by us all. Just as really as our sins were put away by the blood of Christ, so was sin in the flesh condemned, judgment executed on it.
In Romans 8:3, God so “condemned” sin,—so dealt with it, that it was thereafter a convict—as regards the flesh.
This had no more been done before, than our sins had been borne before! Not until the Cross were sins borne, and not until the cross was Sin judicially dealt with in the flesh. Sin has thus no more rights in us now, than it will have in our glorified bodies!
As we shall see in verse 9, believers are not in the flesh before God, at all. This is the second glorious truth; the first being that because sin as connected with human flesh has been dealt with by God, all danger from it, all possible condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, is over.
Verse 4: That the righteous result of the Law [which the Law sought in vain] might be fulfilled in us—Now let us say at once that a righteous state of living, while it is to be brought about in the Christian, is not what God primarily seeks; but rather “that we should be holy and without blame before Him IN LOVE.” This will begin to be developed in Romans, but more thoroughly in other epistles. Nevertheless, our first occupation must be with the truth as set forth in God’s order. The Law commanded a wholly righteous walk toward God and toward our neighbor. But David said:
“I have seen an end of all perfection;
Thy commandment is exceedingly broad.”
Throughout the Psalms, and all the Old Testament Saints’ experiences, we find that there is under the Law, an almost constant striving and groaning after a righteous state,—seen, but not experienced, because the Law consisted of outer enactments, to be fulfilled by man. The Law furnished no power. Now in Romans 8:4 we have three things: first, this righteous state or result; second, the fact that it was not fulfilled by us—we have no more power in ourselves than had the Old Testament saints: but it is fulfilled in us—it is the passive voice: be fulfilled. Third, it is fulfilled in us as we consent to reject the flesh and choose to walk according to the Spirit. In the Spirit lies all the power. With us, the responsibility of choice—a blessed, solemn one!
Verse 5: For those who are according to flesh,170170We find the definite article “the” in the Greek before the word Spirit, where the Holy Spirit’s person or personal action is emphasized. But where His power, or nature as a sphere of being, and not His person, is before us, the article generally disappears. To translate literally several instances in this chapter: The Holy Spirit is introduced in verse 2 as “the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”; but in verse 4, it is “who walk not according to flesh but according to Spirit.” In verse 5, “they that are according to Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” Here “according to Spirit” is a matter of characterizing; whereas in “the things of the Spirit,” the Holy Spirit’s person is brought to the fore. He has certain things—“the things of God none knoweth save the Spirit of God” (II Cor. 2:11). Again, in Romans 8:9, “Ye are not in flesh but in Spirit.” the things of the flesh do mind; but those according to Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
The word phronousin, “mind,” does not here have reference to intellect or understanding, but to the attention or occupation of the being, caused by its natural disposition. And we find thus two classes; first, those according to flesh. This we believe includes here all those not born of God, that is, still in a state of nature, in which class Ephesians 2:3 shows believers once to have been: “We also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the thoughts.” Second, those according to Spirit. These are God’s true children, the Holy Spirit, of whom they were born, indwelling all of them.
The distinction between these two classes is as real as that between the sheep and goat nations at Christ’s coming, or between those written in the book of life and those not written, at the last judgment. An unconquerable sadness rises in our hearts at the fact that after these centuries upon centuries of Divine dealing with man, and especially since the gospel has been preached, as Paul declares, “in all creation under heaven” (Col. 1:23), there are yet those like Cain, Esau, Balaam, Saul, Judas, that are according to flesh. Alas, this description includes the mass of our race, for it is only “a little flock” that can be described as being according to Spirit.
Now all those according to flesh cherish, desire, are occupied with, and absorbed in, talk of, think of, follow after, the things of flesh; those according to Spirit, likewise discern, value, love, are absorbed in, the things of Spirit.171171 “Man earthy, of the earth, an hungred feeds On earth’s dark poison tree— Wild gourds, and deadly roots, and bitter weeds; And as his food is he. And hungry souls there are, that find and eat God’s manna day by day; And glad they are, their life is fresh and sweet, For as their food are they! —Ter Steegen.
Those according to flesh “mind” the flesh’s things: its physical lusts,—gluttony, uncleanness, slothfulness; its soulical lusts,—mental delights, pleasures of the imagination, esthetic indulgences, or “tastes”—whether art, music, sculpture, or what not; its spiritual lusts,—of pride, envy, malice, avarice: in a word, every unclean thing, and every good thing used by unclean persons,—that is, persons not cleansed by the blood of Christ, not new creatures in Him. Then, too, there is the “religion” of the flesh, which includes all not of and in the Holy Ghost.
And there are those who are according to Spirit,—who “mind” the Spirit’s things: salvation, the person of Christ, the fellowship of the saints, the Word of God, prayer, praise prophecy, the blessed hope of Christ’s coming, walking as He walked before men. True, many, many of these fall woefully short (as they well know); yet they mind the things of Spirit, the things of God, to some degree, while others will have nothing of them.
The reason immediately appears:
Verse 6: For the mind (phronēma—noun form of the verb of verse 5) of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit, life and peace. It is terrible to contemplate a mind, disposition, purpose, so set on death (which is its end) that it can be said to be death. It is a most solemn contemplation that we who are in Christ were once in the flesh, the mind and disposition of which we could not and would not change, and which was death itself!
The King James rendering in this verse is hopelessly obscure. God does not say that “to be carnally minded” is death, but that the mind of the flesh, in which they are, is death. Further, He does not say, “to be spiritually minded is life and peace,” as if it were a state into which the believer came; but He does say, the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. In neither case does God speak of people, but of the flesh and of the Spirit. If you are according to Spirit, having been born of God, there is indwelling you a mighty One, the Comforter, whose whole mind, disposition, and manner of being and ruling within you, is life and peace. This “life” is the life of the Risen Christ, which the Spirit, as “the Spirit of grace,” supplies (Heb. 10:29, Gal. 3:5); and this “peace” is that of Christ as spoken of in Isaiah: “Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end.”
Verse 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. Here the disposition (mind) of the flesh is shown to be the reason why that disposition is death. Perhaps no one text of Scripture more completely sets forth the hideously lost state of man after the flesh. For the disposition (mind) of the flesh is enmity itself toward God! There was indeed, as we saw in Chapter 5:10, reconcilement to God while we were enemies, but it did not in any wise consist in changing the nature of the flesh. On the contrary, we were transferred by death with Christ, into the Risen Christ, the flesh remaining unchanged. Your estate while in the flesh was as lost by nature as that of the demons. For nothing worse could be said of them than that they are enmity toward God and are not able to be subject to His law. God certainly has given the flesh up, and nothing but sovereign mercy ever redeemed a human being.172172 Very many years ago a deep revival was in progress in New Haven, Conn., and in Yale College there. Many, especially of the society class, were falling under profound conviction. Several young ladies who had found peace in the blood of Christ, went to a very prominent friend,—a young woman whose generosity, grace and kindness had endeared her especially to her circle of friends. They besought her to come to the revival meetings. When she objected, they protested, “But God has a claim on you. He loves you. He gave His Son to die for you,” Fiercely she burst forth, stamping her foot: “I hate God!”
Verse 8: And those who are in flesh cannot please God—This is God’s sweeping announcement concerning all mankind that are out of Christ. In this sense, all in the flesh are out of Christ. Those in the flesh, even if, like Cain, they would worship God, would come in their own way,—the flesh’s way, which God cannot accept. Terrible prospect! in a state forever displeasing to Him in whom is all blessing. Such are all not born of God.
Verse 9: But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you. Here the great mark of a true Christian is, that the Spirit of God dwells in him. If he is indwelt by the Spirit of God, he is not “in flesh,” but instead an entirely different kind of being,—“in Spirit.” The Spirit becomes now the element in which the believer lives, like water to the fish, or air to the bird, vital, supplying, protecting.
Practically, there are those, like the men of Ephesus—“about twelve (Acts 19:1), who were disciples,” but did not have the Holy Spirit,—a fact Paul instantly discerned. Their answer to his question in verse 2, is wrongly translated in the King James. They really said, “We did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was” (or, “was given”: it is exactly the same form as John 7:39, “The Spirit was not yet; because Jesus was not yet glorified”). John the Baptist had constantly taught about the Holy Spirit, that He that should come after him would give them the Holy Spirit. It was concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that these at Ephesus were ignorant. They were honest: they were converted men; they had been baptized with John’s baptism of repentance. John had said that they should, however, believe on Him that should come after him—on Jesus. Now Paul takes them and instructs them that Christ’s redeeming work having been fully finished on the cross, the Holy Spirit was come, and was given to all believers.
“And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied” (vs. 6).
Now they were in the full Christian position. Thousands upon thousands of earnest, professing Christians have, we believe, like these, not yet heard “that the Holy Spirit was,” that is, had definitely come on the scene at Pentecost, to be given to every believer. He is here! The gift of Him and His indwelling constitutes the distinctive mark of Christians.
Many sincere people are yet spiritually under John the Baptist’s
ministry of repentance. Their state is practically that of the struggle of Romans
Seven, where neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit is mentioned, but only a quickened
but undelivered soul in struggle under a sense of “duty,” not a sense of full acceptance
in Christ and sealing by the Holy Spirit.173173 Of earnest “church members” today have all the Holy Spirit?
Here and there is one who has the witness, “Abba, Father”; who testifies boldly
that Jesus Christ is his Lord; who has a burden of prayer for the lost; who has
a yearning for the fellowship of the saints, and a hunger for God’s Word. What about
the rest? They are occupied with various “Christian” activities. Or, having
in most cases, (I speak of earnest souls) a Seventh of “Romans experience, not knowing
themselves fully accepted of God on the ground of Christ’s work, and not knowing
the deliverance that is through Christ Jesus by the indwelling Holy Spirit from
the power of sin and selfishness and worldliness, and sometimes—awful to say! not
willing to come out and be separate from that world which crucified their Lord (and
is not sorry!), they become part of the present ecclesiastical system,—as Jews
were of that system.
You ask, are such people Christians? If they have finally broken with sin, and are “praying to God alway,” they belong, indeed, in the company of Cornelius (Acts 10), who was a devout man, but was not yet in the Christian position. Two steps led him to the Christian position: first, faith in Christ that his sins were remitted. (Acts 10:43); second, the gift of the Holy Ghost, which followed (Acts 11:15-18.)
Of course, we cannot agree with the Pentecostal people that only those that speak with tongues have the Holy Ghost. We believe that gift was given at Cornelius house to convince Peter, as we read in the following chapter (Acts 11:17) that they had “the like gift,” that had been conferred on the hundred and twenty on the Day of Pentecost. That gift was the Holy Spirit; and not a gift—charisma—which the Spirit Himself afterwards conferred. The same thing applies to Acts 19:6: “The Holy Spirit came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” The essential thing was the conferring of the Holy Spirit, and not the Spirit’s operations thereafter.
(What we say does not mean that we “forbid to speak with tongues”—which God forbids us to forbid:—I Corinthians 14:39;—and concerning “prophesying” we comment in Chapter Twelve.)
But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.
Now this sentence would seem at first to rule out what we have been saying in the foot-note on the Holy Spirit. But, that the apostle is not speaking of those who will shortly have the Spirit of Christ, they being sincere, godly souls, is at once evident when we remember that Cornelius, and those twelve men at Ephesus, were sincere disciples as far as their light went: and in them God is simply showing us the processes of the work of salvation in real saints. Whereas, when Paul says none of His, he is speaking in an absolute way of those who are Christ’s and those who are not. Those who are Christ’s either have or will have the Spirit. Sad to say, it may not be until on a death-bed, when at last the soul renounces all hope but the shed blood of Christ, and is then sealed by the Spirit. Notice also here that the Spirit is called the Spirit of Christ. This is, of course, the Holy Spirit, (not the mind or disposition of Christ).174174“It is astonishing to find many commentators insisting on “Spirit” with a small “s” here, stating that it is “the human spirit, . . . essentially that part of man that holds communion with God” (Sanday). But such a notion defeats the whole meaning of the passage, which is, that that possession by the believer of the Holy Spirit in person is the seal and mark of a true believer over against those that are merely “soulical” (literally, “psychical”); as in Jude 19: “These are they who make separations, sensual, [Greek: psychikoi], having not the Spirit.” Paul says to the Ephesians concerning Christ: “In whom, upon believing, [aorist] ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is an earnest of our inheritance” (Eph. 1:13, 14). Having the Holy Spirit is the unvarying apostolic sign of the true Christian. “Hereby we know that He abideth in us by the Spirit which He gave us” (I John 3:24). Compare Gal. 3:2, 3; I Cor. 12:3, 13. He is called the Spirit of Christ, because Christ promised and sent Him: “The Comforter, whom I will send unto you from the Father,—the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father,” (John 15:26); “Having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He [Christ] hath poured forth this which ye see and hear” (Acts 2:33). And also because He manifests Christ: “He shall glorify Me; for He shall take of Mine, and shall declare it unto you” (John 16:14). Those therefore who belong to Christ have thus His Spirit given to them, always, as we said above, (if they are not still in the preparatory states of repentance, or legal struggle against sin, as in Romans Seven) when they rest believingly in Christ and His work!
Dwelleth in you—This word dwelleth is a touching word, used five times of the Spirit’s making His home within us, in every redeemed one!
Verse 10: And if Christ is in you, the body indeed is dead, on account of sin; but the Spirit is life, on account of righteousness.
Here in this tenth verse we have the answer to our Lord’s prayer in John 17:21, 22: “I pray . . . that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us: . . . that they may be one, even as we are one.”
We have seen in an earlier chapter how we came to be in Christ:
that God, having ended our history before Himself as connected with the first Adam,
at the cross, created us in Christ, the Last Adam, the Second Man. Thus was the
one part of our Lord’s intercession answered. We are in Christ. But the other part
of the great mystery is here before us in Romans 8:10: Christ is in us. Although,
as we know, He is within us by His Spirit, yet it is Christ Himself who is in us.
That the Spirit can make Christ present in us, we see in the beautiful words of
II Corinthians 3:17, 18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit: . . . We . . . are transformed
into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit. Or, as
Paul says in the solemn words of II Corinthians 13:5: “Know ye not as
to your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you?”175175 “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27),
is called by the apostle there “the riches of the glory of this mystery”—the great
revelation which Paul’s gospel contains.
But it is a terrible error to confine the revelation of that mystery to what are called “the prison epistles,” beginning with Ephesians. The two sides of the gospel, We in Christ, and, Christ in us, are constantly set forth from Romans on. The very words of our verse in Romans (8:10): If Christ is in you, are as wonderful as we find! In Galatians also (2:20): “It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me.” And in II Corinthians 13:3: “Christ that speaketh in me”; and in Gal. 1:16: “To reveal His Son in me.” (These last two refer especially to testimony.) In Ephesians 3:14 to 21 we have the great prayer, “that Christ may make His home down in your hearts through faith.” He lives in all saints (II Cor. 13.5), just as all saints are in Him. But the Ephesians passage is like Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” Let us beware of the false teaching, that only the so-called “prison epistles” are “church truth.” For in all Paul’s epistles we find this great double truth, we in Christ, and Christ in us. Each epistle has its particular object and phase of truth, certainly, but they are one; and are all for the Church, the one Body!
Our Lord said in John 14:10, 11: “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me.” Christ and His Father were distinct persons, yet one, in being, life, love, and purpose. “I and the Father are one.” “The living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father.” “The Father loveth the Son . . . I love the Father.” “I glorified Thee . . . glorify Thou Me with Thine own self.” A similar marvelous union our blessed Lord asked and obtained for us with Himself: “That they may be one, even as We are one!” “That they may be in Us” (John 17:21-23).
Returning to Romans 8:10: There is a double fact stated concerning those in whom Christ by His Spirit is. First, the body is dead. Second, the Spirit is life. It is evident that our bodies here are contrasted with our spirits, and these as in the Holy Spirit. It is well that we thoroughly understand and believe that our bodies are in no sense redeemed as yet. They are “dead” as regards any emotion Godward; and this “because of sin.” Those who teach and seek “eradication of the sinful principle,” as they call it, would do well to ponder this tenth verse.
The other blessed fact, that the Spirit is life because of righteousness, is enough for our present walk. “Him who knew no sin God made to become sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Not only are our sins put away and we ourselves “justified from all things”; but we have been created in Christ Jesus. The new creature, Paul tells us, “hath been created after God in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24). It is striking in Romans 8:10 that the noun life is opposed to the adjective dead. Our spirits before they were new-created in Christ, were alive so far as existence is concerned but had no life as God counts life—for that is only in Christ and by the Spirit.
We read “Spirit” in this verse, meaning the Holy Spirit. The sense being, that the Spirit, by whose power we were made partakers of the risen life of Christ, acts constantly as “the Lord the Spirit,” (as quoted above from II Cor. 3:17) as the maintainer and supplier of that life of Christ in us. The Holy Spirit alone could be called life! We recognize that the human body and the human spirit seem to be contrasted in the verse before us.176176lt is “body” (soma), not flesh (sarx). It it were sarx, we would at once know the Holy Spirit is meant,—from Galatians 5.17. Yet we remember Galatians 5:25: “We live by the Spirit”; and Romans 8:2: “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus”; and “The mind of the Spirit is life” (verse 6). Our spirits are now alive—and that to God! But “Christ is our life”; and the Administrator of that life in us is the Spirit of God.
Verse 11: But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwelleth in you, He that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall give life also to your mortal bodies, through His Spirit that dwelleth in you.
The body—the mortal body—is the subject of this verse. Our spirits have been shown to have life,—now: while the body is still dead—as to God: But now God announces that to these bodies, so dead to God, holiness and heaven, is by and by to be given life!
First, we are reminded that the Spirit of that God who raised up Jesus is dwelling in us. Now, Jesus is our Lord’s personal name: “Thou shalt call His name Jesus.” It was Jesus whom they crucified, and buried in Joseph’s tomb. With Jesus, before His death and resurrection, we were not joined; but with Christ Jesus, the Risen One! This is His resurrection Name: indeed, He is never named thus until the Epistles.
Now we are asked to reflect on that place of weakness and deadness in which Jesus once was. But God raised Him up from the dead. And the Spirit of the God who thus raised Jesus is dwelling in us!
So that, although our bodies are yet dead on account of sin,—dead to God,—the Spirit of Him who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead,—Christ Jesus, in whom we now are,—this God will give life also to these poor mortal bodies of ours! And it will be by His Spirit who now indwells us! (This word “mortal” means, subject to physical death; and is used in Scripture only of the body.)
What an unutterable comfort! “Whether we wake or sleep,” this blessed indwelling Spirit of God will give life to these mortal dead-to-God bodies of ours, so that they shall be as alive Godward as our redeemed spirits now are!
It is present comfort beyond measure to know that when the day comes, God will do this blessed giving of life to our bodies through His Spirit that is now dwelling in us!
Mortal bodies—“Mortal” and “immortal,” always, as we note above, in Scripture refer to the body. It is “this mortal” which will “put on immortality” when Christ comes. “What is mortal shall be swallowed up of life” (I Cor. 15:35, 54; II Cor. 5:4).
What blessed phases of our salvation lie in the hands of the indwelling Spirit!
“Who shall deliver me?” That question of Chapter Seven is abundantly answered here in Chapter Eight! Not only from guilt, by the shed blood of Christ (in Chapter Five); but from the “law of sin” in the members, over which even man’s quickened will was so impotent; and from a “mind” that is death, into the mind and walk of the blessed indwelling Spirit Himself: into a mind that is “life and peace.” But further, now, we find that God, by that same indwelling Spirit, will bring our very mortal bodies,—now dead to God, and subject to death, to share that life in Christ which our spirits now have!
12. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh,—according to flesh to be living! 13 For if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die: but if, by the Spirit, ye put to death the doings of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by [the] Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For ye received not a spirit of bondage again unto fear; but ye received a Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God: 17 and if children, then heirs: heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him.
Verse 12: So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh—according to flesh to be living. “So then” has all the great truths in mind from Chapter 6:1 to this verse! Identified with Christ, our old man was crucified with Him, our connection with Adam the first being thus broken by death. Next we share His newness of life as being in Christ Risen. Next the Spirit of life is caused to indwell us, by His almighty power setting us free from the law of sin and of death—because all rights of sin as connected with flesh were cancelled at the cross. Finally, although our body is still dead to God, yet the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus personally dwells within us, guaranteeing that He who raised Christ federally and caused us to share His risen life will make our bodies also alive toward Him when Christ returns. And meanwhile the indwelling Spirit becomes an “earnest” of the coming redemption of our bodies. “So then”—let the power of all these mighty truths govern our thoughts here.
Now note the form of statement in verse 12: We are debtors—(indeed we are) to God, to Christ and to the indwelling Spirit! But this debtorship to God is not here pressed at all. But rather the negation of any debtorship whatever to the flesh! in view of our wonderful deliverance just recited. We are indeed debtors, but not to the flesh—according to flesh to be living. God formed man’s body, first, calling: him man (Gen. 2:7). Then he breathed into his nostrils the breath (literally, spirit) of life; and man became a living soul. His bodily functions we all know. His soul-life put him in touch with the world into which by Divine creation he had now been introduced, but man was essentially a spirit, living in a body, possessing a soul. It was with his spirit that God communed and in which alone man was God-conscious.
Now when man sinned, all was overthrown! The body, that was to be the tabernacle of this Divinely inbreathed or created spirit, took immediate lordship. The life of God was withdrawn from man’s spirit. He had died to God! The spirit became the slave of the body; and the propensities of the latter, normal and controlled before, became the whole urge or driving force of man’s existence! His soul, also, which included his five “senses,”—which perceived and enjoyed the external universe; with his reason and imagination, became controlled by what God called “the flesh.” “The thoughts of man’s heart,” became “only evil and that continually.”
Now in the new birth the dead spirit (dead to God) is by Divine creation made alive, or enlifed with Christ; and the Holy Spirit becomes the sphere of man’s newly created spirit; for whatever the believer’s progress may be, he is no longer in flesh but in Spirit!
The body’s demands are the same as ever, because the body is not yet redeemed; and to live after the desires of the body—“according to flesh” Paul warns:
Verse 13: For if ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die—Here is a terrible warning: (1) It is one of the great red lights by which God keeps His elect out of fatal paths. (Compare I Cor. 15:2, Col. 1:23.) (2) It shows how those who have received a knowledge of the truth and are addressed by the apostle as among God’s people, may yet be choosing a flesh-walk—which involves the refusal of the Spirit—refusal to be led by Him, as are all God’s real sons (verse 14). (3) Death, here, is of course eternal death, as in Chapter Six: “The end of these things is death”; and here in Chapter Eight: “The mind of the flesh is death.” (4) Note that expression “about to die” (mellete). Those following a flesh-walk are not yet viewed as dead, so let them hear and repent quickly, lest they become as those professing Christians became in Jude 12: Autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots,”—summer ended, a fruitless autumn, and Divine cursing. or “twice dead” means that there was an awakening, a quickening, and a tasting, as in Hebrews Six; tasting of the heavenly gift—eternal life; then, final apostasy, and withdrawal of all gracious influences; the very roots, as in the barren fig tree, plucked up and withered. Born again? No. Yet “escaping the defilements of the world,” only to choose to go back to a “twice-dead” condition. Surely the mind of the flesh is death!
But if, by the Spirit, ye put to death the doings of the body, ye shall live—Here is a most definite word that the body is under the control of sin; and a most definite statement as to the manner of a holy life.
1. The deeds, or doings of the body are naturally selfish, and so, evil, for the body is not redeemed. (See same word “deed” in Luke 23:51.) The body would have its every desire gratified—because it so desires. It has no governor in itself but the sin by which it is still dead—to God and all holiness. Even the lawful needs and desires of the body become sinful and deathful if the body is allowed to rule. In Chapter 6:12 we hear: “Let not sin reign in your mortal body that ye should obey the desires of it” (the body). The beasts and birds follow the instincts and desires of their bodies, being without spirit, conscience or sin. But man cannot do so. For he has,—yea, he is, essentially a spirit,—though he dwells in a bodily tabernacle, and has a conscience, under the eye of which all his consents or refusals pass, and that constantly. And to let his unredeemed body govern him, is to fall far below the very beasts: for he lets sin reign in his mortal body, when he lets the lusts of the body control his decisions.
2. Now God says the “doings” of the body are to be put to death. Not that our bodies are not dear to God. They are,—and if we are Christ’s our bodies are members of Christ (I Cor. 6:15). But they are not redeemed as yet. And God has left us in these unredeemed bodies, that we may learn—(1) the badness of our old self-life, as we see that in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing; (2) the exceeding sinfulness of sin,—and learn to hate and abhor it; (3) the sweet and blessed path of relying on the indwelling Holy Spirit,—nay, even of using His Almighty and willing power by acts of simple faith; for it reads, “If WE, by the Spirit, put to death the doings of the body.”
For we must note most carefully that a holy life is to be lived by us. It is not that we have any power,—we have none. But God’s Spirit dwells in us for the express object of being railed “upon by us to put to death the doings of the body.” Self-control is one of that sweet cluster called “the fruit of the Spirit,” in Galatians 5:22.
How confidently Paul walked in this power of the Spirit! “In the Holy Spirit,” he says, in II Corinthians 6:6,—“in pureness,” etc. And again, “I will not be brought under the power of any” bodily desire,—however lawful. And again, “I buffet my body, and bring it into subjection; lest, having preached to others, I myself should be rejected” (I Cor. 6:13; 9:27).
A holy life without a controlled body is an absolute contradiction; not to be dreamed of for a moment. Indeed, God goes further here, and says, “Ye shall live,—if ye by the Spirit put to death the doings of the body”: the opposite path being, “If ye live according to flesh, ye are about to die!”
When we announce that the Scripture teaching is that walking by the Holy Spirit has taken the place of walking under the rule of the Mosaic law, there remains to be examined, and that most carefully, just what walking by the Spirit means.
1. It does not mean to desert the use of our faculties of moral perception or of moral judgment.
Although there doubtless are occasions in which the believer, being filled with the Spirit, acts in a wholly unanticipated way; and although there may be times when he will be carried quite out of himself in ecstasies of joy or love; and although the believer walking by the Spirit will normally be conscious of the almighty power within, of triumph over the world and the flesh: nevertheless the feet of the believer will never be swept from the path of conscious moral determination. He will always know that so far as decisions of moral matters are concerned, he has still the sense of moral accountability, or, perhaps better, responsibility. The believer’s own conscience will protest against any such letting go of himself as has been unfortunately found throughout Church history when people have submitted themselves to such ecstatic states that moral judgment and self-control were cast to the winds.
We do indeed read of most remarkable experiences, and that in deeply approved saints, in which their spirits were overwhelmed by the vision of Divine things, and we must adduce that in such experiences they were rapt and ecstatic; but never to the losing of that self-control which, we read in Galatians 5:22, is a fruit of the Spirit. Even in the exercise of the gifts spoken of by the apostle in I Corinthians 12 to 14, it is definitely declared, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”
It is in the abandonment of the sense of moral responsibility into unscriptural surrender of the mental and spiritual faculties,—into other control than self-control directed by the Holy Spirit, that such awful extravagances have occurred in Church history.
2. To be led by the Spirit does indeed involve the surrender of our wills to God. But God, on His side, does not crush into fatalistic abandon those very faculties with which He has endowed men. On the contrary, the surrendered saint immediately finds His faculties marvelously quickened,—his faculties both of mind and of sensibility. All the powers of his soul-life (which include his intellect, tastes, feelings, emotions, and recollective memory) are renewed. His will being yielded to God, God now “works in Him to will” as well as “to do of His good pleasure,”—in which the surrendered saint rejoices.
But while it is indeed God who works in us even to will, yet it is true that walking in the Spirit is still our own choice: “If ye by the Spirit put to death the doings of the body”—we read. The Holy Spirit is infinitely ready, but God leads rather than compels.
There is deep mystery, no doubt, in the great double fact of God is working in us to will, and on the other hand, of our choosing His will, moment by moment. We can only affirm that both are taught in Scripture, and we ourselves know both to be blessedly true.
Verses 14, 15: For as many as are led by [the] Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For ye received not a spirit of bondage again unto fear;—Let us look first at the words “sons of God”; and second at what is meant by being “led by the Spirit”; third, let us see that our being thus in the Spirit’s sphere and control is the proof of the reality of our sonship.
1. “Sons” means “adult-sons,” sons come of age (see footnote, verse 15). The term, when referring to saints, is applied in Paul’s epistles both to Christ (Rom. 1:3, 4, 9); and to those associated with Him since His resurrection (Gal. 4:4-7); therefore to His own saints, sealed by the Spirit—those sons whom God is “bringing unto glory.”
2. Being “led by the Spirit” does not refer here to service, nor to “guidance” in particular paths. It refers to that general control by the blessed Spirit of those born of the Spirit, living by the Spirit, in the Spirit. He is the sphere and mode of their being, and is their seal unto the day of redemption.
3. That our being thus in the Spirit’s sphere and control is the proof of the reality of our sonship, is evident from what has been said; but let us avoid the thought that assurance of our sonship is based on our perfect obedience to the Spirit. Nothing is based upon us. If one of God’s true saints disobeys, it is the office of that same Spirit to convict him of his sin, interceding in Him “according to God” (Rom. 8:27), while Christ intercedes for him above (I John 2:1).
Israel received a spirit of bondage when they were placed under the Law. And how sad that perhaps the most of Christians regard themselves as under the Law and so under bondage. In this they are like the world, which fears Christ as (they think) a hard taskmaster. Now the result of a spirit of bondage was fear. When Israel walked in the wilderness with Jehovah dwelling in darkness in the holy of holies in the tabernacle, they were taught to fear. For Jehovah was teaching a sinful people His holiness and separateness from them, and how to draw near Him only by sacrifices.
But when Christ came, all was different. He came not noticing or marking sin. Quickly the common people became glad. Proud religion called Him “a friend of publicans and sinners”—and He was. We have no words to express the limitless graciousness of God manifested in the flesh—in Christ.
But how much beyond even those favored to see “the days of the Son of Man” on earth is the position of those in Christ Risen: sin put away forever, released from the old Adam life and responsibilities, and now the Spirit sent witnessing in our hearts—the very Spirit of God’s Son. A spirit of fear and bondage is as out of place now as if one caught up with Christ in the Rapture were afraid to face God, in whose Son he is!
Ye received a spirit of adult-sonship,177177 We have sought in vain for some simple English expression to
set forth the Greek word so poorly rendered “adoption.” This word is
from, huios, “son come of age”; and thesia, a placing, or setting a person or thing
in its place. In earthly affairs, “adoption” is the term applied to the selection
as child and heir of one not born of us; and the execution of legal papers making
such child our own, inheriting legal rights, etc.
But God’s children are begotten and born of God, and are called tekna, “born-ones,” of God. Thus are they directly related to God, “partakers of the Divine nature” (II Pet. 1:4). All God’s children, whether in Old Testament days or today, are thus born. But the word huios means, a child come of age; no longer “as a servant” (Gal. 4:7). And huiothesia means God’s recognizing them in that position! This will be consummated fully at the coming of Christ, when our bodies, redeemed, and fashioned anew, shall be conformed to Christ’s glorious body.
Meanwhile, because we are already adult sons (huioi), God has given us a spirit of adult-sonship! No Jew called God “Father,” or “Abba”; but “Jehovah.” (Indeed) fearfulness, even prevented, generally, the use by the Jews of God’s memorial-name—Jehovah—for that nation: they called Him Adonai—“Lord.” And the English translations of the Old Testament, except the A.R.V., do the same thing,—only printing Jehovah as “LORD”—in capitals! But this is no translation; and is legal fearfulness.)
“Because ye are adult-sons (huioi) God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Gal. 4:6, 7).
Even as to the strong Roman law concerning “adoption” of those not born in the family, (and Paul is writing to Romans) the following is instructive:
“The process of legal adoption by which the chosen heir became entitled not only to the reversion of the property but to the civil status) to the burdens as well as the rights of the adopter—made him become, as it were, his other self, one with him . . . We have but a faint conception of the force with which such an illustration would speak to one familiar with the Roman practice; how it would serve to impress upon him the assurance that the adopted son of God becomes, in a peculiar and intimate sense, one with the heavenly Father.” (Merivale, quoted by Vincent.) whereby we cry Abba, Father!
Verse 16: The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are born-ones of God.
The manner of communication between the Holy Spirit and our spirit is a profound mystery. Indeed all man’s vaunted knowledge is challenged by Jehovah’s word to Job: “Who hath given understanding to the mind?” We do not speak now with the mere purpose of ridiculing man’s vaunted knowledge, but simply to state facts. Human philosophy and science know absolutely nothing about the quality or nature of spirit.
God, in this passage in Romans, does not address Himself at all
to human intellect, but to the consciousness of His saints.178178 1.Much unnecessary and unfruitful questioning as to what is the
witness of the Spirit has arisen.
It is plain both in this passage (verses 15, 16) and from the great verse in Galatians 4:6: “Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” that the “witness of the Spirit” is the producing of the consciousness of being born of God, of belonging to His family, in Christ. And for us today who are in Christ, there should be the consciousness, not merely of babes, but of adult-sons. “God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” It is a sense of the very relation to the Father which Christ Himself has as Son! Mark, in this we do not “know” the Son, for He is the second person of the Deity; but we do know the Father, and the Son “willeth to reveal Him” by sending the blessed Spirit for that purpose. (See Matt. 11:27.)
How beautifully sweet is the recognition of its parents by a babe, a child! unconcious, instinctive, yet how real!
Now the witness of the Spirit is to the fact of our relationship. How foolish it would be, and how sad, if a child should fall into the delusion that it must have certain “feelings” if it is to believe itself a child of its parents. The unconscious certainty of the relationship is the beauty of it. There are, indeed, certain tests Divinely given us, by which to assure ourselves. Most of these, perhaps, are in the great Epistle of Fellowship, First John;—“fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”: “I have written unto you, little children, because ye know the Father (2:13). Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet made manifest what we shall be. We know that, if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him even as He is (3:2). Hereby we know that He abideth in us, by the Spirit which He gave us” (3:24). The Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit. There is no certainty comparable with this!
“With our spirit”—We are not told that the Spirit bears witness to our spirit, as if the knowledge that we are God’s children were some unheard of, undreamed matter to our own spirits. But He beareth witness with our spirit, showing that the child of God, having had communicated to him God’s own nature (II Pet. 1:4), Christ’s own life (I Cor. 6:17), is fundamentally, necessarily conscious of the glorious fact of filial relationship to God. Along with this consciousness, the Spirit indwelling witnesses, enabling us, moving us, to cry, “Abba, Father.” There is life before this, just as the new-born babe has life and breath before it forms a syllable. It is significant that the Spirit indwelling is the power whereby we cry, Abba, Father,—by His enlightenment. His encouragement, His energy.
The operations of a man’s mind either in philosophy or in science constitute an eternal quest for certainty. The conclusions of philosophy are based upon theories and hypotheses and are always being challenged and perpetually overthrown by succeeding new schemes of philosophy. And even the dearest discoveries of science await new explanations—of the very constitution of the universe they are invented in.
But with the child of God—the born-again family, there is no such uncertainty! A child of God knows. And the blessed Holy Spirit, by whose inscrutable power he was born again, keeps forever witnessing with his consciousness,—and that through no processes of his mind, but directly, that he is a born-one of God.
This is most natural and could not be otherwise. Children in an earthly family grow up together as a family, their parents addressing them as children, their brothers and sisters knowing them to be such. It is the most beautiful thing in the natural world!
How much more certain, yea, how much more wonderful and beautiful,
is the constantly witnessed relationship of His children to God: the Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are
born-ones179179 This word tekna means “born-ones,” offspring. The several other
Greek words for child are used accurately in Scripture: brephos,—an unborn child
or a newborn child (Luke 1:44 and 2:12 and 16);
nepios, babes or small
children,—children not come of age (Matt. 21:16; I Cor. 3:1;
13:11; Gal. 4:1, 3; Eph 4:14), as over against adults or those come of age;
and paidarion, children, generally; and with regard to their need of
training and teaching. (The verbal for paideo means to train children, or to cause any one to
learn; thus arises its use in Hebrews 12:6.) Finally, huios, which
is the word of sonship, of adult understanding: Paul contrasts this word, with
in both Galatians 4:6, and I Corinthians 13:11, as adulthood over against childhood,
These distinctions are not absolute, but practically so. of God. Believers will find themselves calling God Father, in their prayers and communion. This witness will spring up of itself in the heart that has truly rested in Christ and His shed blood.
Conversely, if we find ourselves always in our prayers saying Lord, Lord, and never Father, we should be concerned, and should go back to the beginnings of things,—that is, to the record concerning our guilt, in Romans Three, and our helplessness, and to the fact that God has set forth Christ as a propitiation; and resting there, in His shed blood, we should boldly call God Father, and cultivate that habit.
Nor, in our judgment, should Christians permit themselves habits of address in prayer not authorized and exemplified in Scripture. Our Lord Jesus prayed saying, “Father,” “My Father,” “O righteous Father.” He did not say, “Almighty God,” nor did He use the name “Jehovah,” as Israel did in the Psalms and elsewhere. He said, “Father.” And He said to us, “When ye pray, say, Father.” (Note Luke 11:2 in the Revised Version.) “We have our access,” says Paul, “in one Spirit unto the Father.” “To us there is one God, the Father” (I Cor. 8:6). Today, also, some devoted Christians address God as “Father-God.” But why not say, “Father,” as our Lord directed and the Spirit witnesses? To say “Father-God,” makes the first word an adjective!
Some may say, “It is foolish and unnecessary to make such discriminations.” But if God “sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father,” we speak to the Father as did our beloved Savior Himself. This is infinite grace, and should be appreciated and cultivated by us. Moreover, if you were going into the presence of the King of England, you would take thought for a proper form of address. How infinitely rather when you address God!
Verse 17: If born-ones, then heirs—We have noted that the word for children here, tekna, is different from the word for adult-sons (huioi) of verse 14. The word indicates the fact that we are really begotten of God through His Word by His Spirit, and are partakers of His nature. Heirship is from relationship. The young ruler who came running to the Lord saying, “What good thing shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” was a perfect example of a legalist. Indeed, Nicodemus, beloved man, “understood not these things”—of being born again. Now, if a man is really a child of God by begetting and birth, he becomes indissolubly God’s heir! This is a fact of such overwhelming magnitude that our poor hearts hardly grasp it. It is said of no angel, cherub, or seraph, that he is an heir of God. Believer, if you will reflect, meditate deeply, on this, I am born of God; I am one of His heirs! earthly things will shrink to nothing. Now, J. D. Rockefeller, Jr., has inherited his father’s wealth: why? Because he was his father’s born son. The young ruler said, “What must I do to inherit?” a contradiction in itself!
Heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ—I could not have the presumption to write these words if they were not in God’s holy Book. That a guilty, lost, wretched child of Adam the First should have written of him, a joint-heir with Christ, the Eternal Maker of all things, the Well-beloved of the Father, the Righteous One, the Prince of life—only God the God of all grace could prepare such a destiny for such a creature!
And, we may humbly say, perhaps, that God could only do this by joining us in eternal union with His beloved Son, as the Last Adam, the Second Man; having released us from Adam the First and all his connections, at the cross, and having placed us in Christ Risen, in all the boundless and everlasting rights of His dear Son, whom He has “appointed heir of all things!” Ages after ages of ever-increasing blessing forever and forever and forever, lie in prospect for believers—for the joint-heirs!
If so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him.—Here two schools of interpretation part company, one saying boldly that all the saints are designated, and that all shall reign with Christ; the other, that reigning with Christ depends upon voluntary choosing of a path of suffering with Him. Well, the Greek word eiper translated “if so be,” will support either of these interpretations.180180Eiper—“if so be that,” Is used six times in the New Testament; Romans 8:9 and 17; I Cor. 8:5; 15:15; II Thess. 1:6; I Pet. 2:3. An examination of these references shows that this word eiper can only be interpreted in one passage, I Cor. 15:15, as introducing a non-existent state of things; and here it is only most evidently for the sake of argument only: “if so be that the dead rise not.” This use in Rom. 8:9, the text proves to be in connection with a positive asserted fact. “if so be the Spirit of God dwelleth in you.” This word eiper can be rendered in all six passages by “if, as is supposed.” I would suggest the rendering, “inasmuch as,” for Rom. 8:17.
“That we may also be glorified together.” This is the key to our question: WHO are to be glorified with Christ when He comes? In Chapter Five Paul says (and that of, and to, all the saints), “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” And in II Thessalonians 1:10 we read, “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed.” And in I Corinthians 15:23: “Christ the firstfruits; then they that are Christ’s, at His coming.” And again (Col. 3:4): “When Christ our life shall be manifested, then shall ye also [evidently all the saints!] with Him be manifested in glory.” Again (I John 3:2): “Now are we [all the saints] children of God . . . We know that, if He shall be manifested, we [all the saints] shall be like Him; for we shall see Him even as He is!”
Such passages leave no room at all for a “partial rapture!” All the saints will share Christ’s glory.
Now, as to places in the Kingdom, what reward we shall have, what responsibilities of kingdom government (in the 1000 years), we shall each be able to bear, or be entitled to, our “suffering with” Christ Jesus, seems to determine. “If we died with Him [as did all believers] we shall [all] also live with Him [in glory]; if we endure, we shall also reign with Him” (II Tim. 2:12, R. V.)
Now the Greek word used in Romans 8:17 for “suffer with” (sumpascho) is used just once more in the New Testament: in I Corinthians 12:26: “If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” Here Paul is speaking of the Body of Christ into which all believers have been baptized by the Spirit (I Cor. 12:12, 13): “As the [human] body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ; For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one Body.” Here note all believers are in this Body. And then, verse 26: “Whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it.” Here (and mark again this is the only occurrence of the word besides Rom. 8:17) “suffering with” is not a voluntary matter, but one necessitated by the relationship. If someone should tread upon your foot, your whole body would be exercised. So it is with Christ and His members.
Now as to the other word, of II Timothy 2:12: “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him”; this word is entirely different: but (and note this), the subject of which it treats is different. Being a joint-heir with Christ, and being a member of His Body, and therefore, sharing necessarily those sufferings that every member of a living Christ will suffer in a world where Satan is prince, is one thing; gaining the ability to have victory over Satan and the world, entering gladly into the conflict those sufferings involve, and enduring, is perhaps an additional thing, fitting one for reigning with Christ, though all His members are joint-heirs with Him.
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it in hope: 21 because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to-wit, the redemption of our body. 24 For unto [a state of] hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth?
25 But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Verse 18: The word I reckon (logidzomai), is a favorite with Paul. It expresses faith in action. Paul had known abundant sufferings: read II Corinthians Eleven, and all his epistles. But like our Lord, “the File-Leader” (archegos—Heb. 12:2) of the column of believers, who endured the cross in view of the joy set before Him, despising the shame, Paul “reckoned” in view of the coming glory: which should be the constant attitude of all of us.
The sufferings of this present time—“This present time”; it is necessary to have God’s estimate of these days in which we live or we will be deluded into man’s false thoughts. Note: “this present evil age” (Gal. 1:4); “the days are evil”; “this darkness” (Eph. 5:16; 6:12); “the distress that is upon us”; “the fashion of this world is passing away” (I Cor. 7:26, 31).
Are not to be compared with the glory—These Words need to be pondered in view of passages like Heb. 11:35-38; “tortured . . . mockings and scourgings . . . bonds and imprisonment, stoned . . . sawn asunder . . . tempted . . . slain with the sword . . . went about in sheepskins, in goatskins . . . destitute, afflicted, evil-treated . . . wandering [through] the earth.” In spite of the horrors of the days of Nero, Diocletian and the rest; and the nameless terrors of the Spanish Inquisition: the “glory which shall be revealed” so swallows up these brief earthly troubles, that they shall not be named nor remembered in that day when Christ shall come.
It is difficult, impossible, to depict in language all of, or any real measure of, what is meant by the glory which shall be revealed toward us. In fact, as we know, we are to be glorified with Christ, to share His glory, and appear with Him in glory.181181The expression “the glory which shall be revealed toward us,” is translated “in us” in the King James. This preposition (eis) is used twice, for example, in II Thess. 2:14: “Unto which also He called you through our gospel unto the obtaining of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ,” This “glory” is to be revealed “to usward”: not only to us, but in us, and therefore through us, to an astonished universe; and that forever! In Colossians 3:4 we read, “When Christ, who is our life, shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory”; and in II Thessalonians 1:10: “When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be marveled at in all them that believed.” Such passages show that not only will the saints behold Christ’s glory, but, beholding, they will share that glory, and be glorified with Him. This is the great object before God’s mind now, to “bring many sons unto glory” (Heb. 2:10), that they may be conformed to Christ’s image (Rom. 8:29).
In constant view of that glory to be revealed in and through the Church, the sufferings which God called the saints to go through, no matter what they were, seemed as nothing.
Verse 19: For the earnest expectation of the creation is waiting for the revealing of the sons of God.
The world knows nothing of this astonishing verse. All the saints should always have it in remembrance! Man’s philosophy and science, taught in their schools, continually prate of “evolution” and “progress” in the present creation. And they go back in pure imagination millions of years and forward millions of years, telling you confidently how things came to be, and when, and what they will come to be; but they know nothing. Here God tells us unto what creation is coming—for what it is waiting: “earnestly.” Whether inanimate things on earth (for even the rocks and hills shall sing for joy shortly!) or whether the moving creatures on earth or sea; or whether, may we say, the hosts on high—all are waiting in expectation for that “unveiling of the sons of God.” For the word here translated “revealing” is apokalupsis, a removal of a covering,—as when some wonderful statue has been completed and a veil thrown over it, people assemble for the “unveiling” of this work of art. It will be as when sky rockets are sent up on a festival night: rockets which, covered with brown paper, seem quite common and unattractive, but up they are sent into the air and then they are revealed in all colors of beauty, and the multitude waiting below shout in admiration. Now the saints are wrapped up in the common brown paper of flesh, looking outwardly like other folks. But the whole creation is waiting for their unveiling at Christ’s coming, for they are connected with Christ, one with Him, and are to be glorified with Him at His coming.
Verse 20: For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it in hope:
Now God, in His infinite wisdom, thus subjected the creation,182182The expression creation seems to refer to this earth, even although the words in verse 22 are the whole creation. In Colossians 1:23, Paul speaks of the gospel having been preached “in all creation under heaven.” God announced as a result of man’s sin, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee,” The creation—the old version here reads “creature,” which is not accurate or clear. The reference is especially to the present world and the order of life upon it.—that is, the earth. “The whole creation” must refer to the earth, for the Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the holy angels were not “subjected to vanity”!
Vanity—Here look back to the garden of Eden, and to Adam’s first sin, the judgment of which fell not upon the man, but we read: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” Here we find God subjecting the whole creation to “vanity,”—that is, to unattainment. The book of Ecclesiastes dwells long, with a mournful tone upon this vanity, this unattainment; things “putting forth the tender leaves of hope” only to have the “sudden frost” of disease and death end earthly hopes. “Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is no abiding,” as David said in his great prayer (I Chron. 29:15).
Not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it in hope—God had a vast plan, reaching on into eternity, and “hope” lies ahead for creation: for the Millennium is coming, and after that, a new heaven and earth.
Verse 21: Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption—Now although we who are in Christ are new creatures, yet God has left our bodies as the link with the present “groaning” creation. Meanwhile, how “the bondage of corruption” appears on every side! Death—are not all creatures in terror of it, seeking to escape it? Every decaying carcass of poor earth-creatures speaks of the ‘bondage of corruption.” What ruin man’s sin has effected throughout the creation, as well as upon himself! It was God’s good pleasure, that when man sinned and became estranged from his God, all creation, which was under him, should be subjected to the “bondage of corruption” along with him, in decay and disease and suffering, death, and destruction, everywhere,—of bondage, with no deliverer.
Into the liberty of the glory of the children of God—As Paul shows) we already have liberty in Christ,—the liberty of grace. The “liberty of the glory of the children of God” awaits Christ’s second coming. How blessed it is to know that into that glorious liberty, creation, which has shared “the bondage of corruption,” will be brought along with us!
Contrast the state of creation now with the Millennial order described in Isaiah 11:6-9: The wolf dwelling with the lamb the leopard with the kid; the calf, the young lion, and the fatling together, and the little child leading them. The cow and the bear feeding, their young ones lying down together; the lion eating straw like the ox; children playing over the serpent’s hole: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of Jehovah, as the waters cover the sea.”
Verse 22: For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
We know—Always this is the expression of Christian knowledge. This earth’s poets, philosophers, scientists, face to face with death with a capital D,—in every crushed ocean shell, in every rotten log, in the very minor keys in which the voices of beasts and birds are pitched, seem never even to get a glimpse of the bondage of corruption in which all creation is groaning; but talk in sprightly ways of “progress,” of “evolution”! How far from understanding the creation around them are human beings all,—except Spirit-taught Christians! “Their own poets” write thus,—of a “groaning creation”:
“The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hill-side’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s well with the world!”
To think of writing “All’s well,” in a world where all are dying! Christians, and only Christians see the present creation with new vision, as the work of their dear Father. As Wade Robinson’s hymn says,
“Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.”
Groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now—Ever since Adam’s sin, the curse lies on all the earth. The earth and the creatures are away from God. All is estranged, consequently “groaning” and “travailing” are everywhere. (But travailing, though painful, looks toward a birth!)
Until now—No “evolution,” “progress,”—but the opposite,—until Christ shall come with the “liberty of the glory.”
Verse 23: And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to-wit, the redemption of our body.
Let us note that the Spirit does not take us out of sympathy with groaning creation, but rather supports us in such sympathy! Being ourselves, as to the body, in a groaning condition,—“longing to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven” (II Cor. 5:2) we are able to sympathize with the creatures about us, which is a precious thing! No one should feel as tender as should the child of God toward suffering creation. No one should be as gentle. Not only should this be true about us as concerns unsaved people: as Paul says, “Be gentle, showing all meekness toward all men,” but, I say, we should be tender and patient toward animals, for they are in a dying state—until our bodies are redeemed.
What a marvelous position, then, is the Christian’s! On the heavenly side, the side of grace, in Christ, sharing in His risen life, delivered from sin and law and all worldly things. On the other hand, not yet partaker of glory (though expecting and awaiting it), but kept in an unredeemed body,—not fitted yet for heaven: and in which the longing spirit, knowing itself “meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light,” can only “groan”!
This groaning is not at all that of the “wretched man” of Romans Seven. For not only is spiritual victory known; but the “redemption body” is longed for and awaited as that which the Lord’s coming will surely bring!
Thus, then, does the Christian become the true connection of groaning creation with God! He is redeemed, heavenly; but his body is unredeemed, earthly. Yet the blessed Holy Spirit as the “firstfruits” of coming bodily redemption, dwells in him. Thus the believer and the whole creation look toward one goal the liberty of the coming glory of the sons of God!183183Major D. W. Whittle—of blessed memory! used to say, “The trouble with most Christians is that they are not willing to groan! Unwilling to face constantly the fact of being ‘in a tabernacle’ our earthly body, in which we groan, being burdened; and thus to long for the coming of Christ in the redemption of their bodies, most Christians get weary and long for death—disembodiment, which is not the Christian’s hope. Or else they turn back for some kind of satisfaction to the things of this poor wretched dying world. Or they seek to have sin ‘eradicated’ from their bodies.”
Ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan—Here then is a wonderful scene: (1) new creatures in Christ, whose citizenship is in heaven; (2) the presence of the Spirit within them as “firstfruits” of their coining inheritance—witnessing of it, giving them to taste of its glory; (3) a state of groaning despite all this; (4) a waiting for bodily redemption.
Waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body—The instructed Christian, knowing that his body belongs to the Lord, and is not yet redeemed, longs for, yearns for, groans for that day when his body will be placed in a position of openly acknowledged sonship and glory, even as his spirit now, is. Till that day he cannot be satisfied.
This scene is deeply touching. One who, redeemed, belongs in heaven, yet kept in a body in which he groans with groaning creation. Then—amazing goodness! the blessed Spirit, we may say, represents God’s tender feeling toward His creation, abiding, as He does, in us the while our bodies are not redeemed. We repeat and repeat that the Christian’s hope is not disembodiment, or mere “going to heaven.” For, knowing that “our citizenship is in heaven; we patiently wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” There is an element, we fear, of cowardice, as well as of unbelief in setting our hope on “getting to heaven,” and leaving, so to speak, our body behind. God began with man’s body in Eden (Gen. 2); and He will end with redeeming our bodies. The heart of God and of Christ,—yea of the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8:11) is set upon that. Let our hearts, also, be set upon it.
Verse 24: For unto [a state of] hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopeth for that which he seeth?
This places us, along with all creation, in hope. For, as verse 24 announces, unto [a state of] hope were we saved. There is a longing for and expectation of something better, no matter what spiritual blessing comes to the believer. This that is longed for, is, of course, “the liberty of the glory,” that belongs, by God’s grace, to the children of God (verse 21). Creation will share this “liberty.” Therefore we have a double feeling toward creation: sympathy with its suffering, and joy in its prospect of sharing the “liberty of the glory” into which we shall shortly come.
Verse 25: But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Now hope is expecting something better! The very fact that we have not seen it realized as yet, begets within us that grace which is so precious to God—patience. But note, it is not patience in the abstract that is set forth here: but patient waiting for the coming liberty of the glory of the children of God.
26 And in like manner the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity: for we know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered! 27 and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to God.
28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, to them that according to His purpose are called ones. 29 For whom He foreknew He also foreordained conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren! 30 and whom He foreordained, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.
Verse 26: And in like manner also—We have just read that “we that have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan within ourselves,” waiting for that blessed day of “the liberty of the glory of the sons of God.” These words “in like manner,” refer to that operation within us of the Spirit, which makes us in real sympathy, one with the groaning creation about us. “In like manner,” then, with this truly wonderful help, the Spirit “helps our infirmity,”—in its ignorant and infirm dealing with God. Note, the word “infirmity” is singular number: for we have nothing but infirmity! We know not how to pray as we ought. Oh, beware of the glib and intimate chatter of the “Modernist” preacher in his prayers! He would flatter both the Almighty and his hearers, and most of all, himself, in his “beautiful” and “eloquent” addresses to God! Not so with Paul, and the real saints of God, who have the Holy Ghost. There is with them the sense of utter and boundless need, and along with this the sense of ignorance and inability. Yet, still, bless God! there is, with all this, the sense of the limitless help of the Holy Spirit!
The Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered—We know that Christ maketh intercession for us at the right hand of God, but here the Spirit is making intercession within us: The Spirit, who knows the vast abysmal need of every one of us, knows that need to the least possible particular.
Groanings which cannot be uttered—expresses at once the vastness of our need, our utter ignorance and inability, and the infinite concern of the blessed indwelling Spirit for us. “Groanings”—what a word! and to be used of the Spirit of the Almighty Himself! How shallow is our appreciation of what is done, both by Christ for us, and by the Spirit within us!
Which cannot be uttered—Here then, are needs of our, of which our minds know nothing, and which our speech could not utter if we could perceive those needs. But it is part of God’s great plan in our salvation that this effectual praying should have its place—praying, the very meaning of which we cannot grasp. Men of God have testified to the spirit of prayer prostrating them into deep and often long-continued “groanings.” We believe that such consciousness of the Spirit’s praying within us is included in this verse, but the chief or principal part of the Spirit’s groaning within us, perhaps never reaches our spirit’s consciousness.
Verse 27: And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is in the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to God.
It is God the Father here that is “searching the hearts.” How we used to shrink from the thought of such Divine searching! But here God is “searching hearts” to know what is the mind of the indwelling, holy Spirit concerning a saint, to know what the Spirit groans for, for that saint; in order that He may supply it.
For in the plan of salvation, God the Father is the Source, Christ the Channel, and the Spirit the Agent.
Because He maketh intercession for the saints according to God—We feel that the introduction of the words “the will of” before the word God, merely obscures the meaning. “According to God”—what an all-inclusive, blessed expression, enwrapping us as to our salvation and blessing, wholly in Divine love and power. We know not how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit makes intercession in us, “according to God,” according to His nature (of which we are partakers); according to our needs, which He discerns; according to our dangers, which He foresees—according to all the desires He has toward us.
Verse 28: And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good—The words we know are used about thirty times as the expression of the common knowledge of the saints of God as such, in the Epistles: (in Romans, five times)—indicating always Christian knowledge; also I Corinthians 8:4, I John 5:19,—and John 21:24, are perfect examples. Lodge members, having been “initiated,” go about as those that “know.” The Christian is traveling to glory along with a blessed company that can say “We know,” in an infinitely higher and surer sense.184184As for the “Modernist,” his shallow, ignorant, blatant boast if, “We do not know; we are not sure,” thus giving continual open evidence that he does not belong to that company of whom John writes: “We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we know Him that is true, and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” And here, what a knowledge! that to them that love God all things work together for good!
Now as to them that love God John tells us in his first Epistle, “We love, because He first loved us”; and, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us”; and “We know and have believed the love which God hath in our case.” Real faith in the God who gave His Son, will, Paul tells the Galatians (5:6)), be “working through love.” Only those can and do really love God whose hearts have been “sprinkled from an evil conscience”—delivered from fear of God’s just judgment. The question therefore, comes right back to this: Have we believed, as guilty lost sinners, on this propitiation by the blood of God’s Son on the cross? Is that our only hope? If so, I John 4:16 becomes true: “We know and have believed the love which God hath in our case,” and verse 19 follows: “We love, because he first loved us.” We cannot work up love for God, but His redeeming love for us, believed in, becomes the eternal cause and spring of our love to God.
Now we find in Romans 8:28 a great marvel: all things work together for good to these believing lovers of God. This involves that billion billion control of God’s providence,—of the most infinitesimal things—to bring them about for “good” to God’s saints. When we reflect on the innumerable “things” about us,—forces seen and unseen of the mineral, vegetable, and animal worlds; of man at enmity with God; of Satan, and his principalities and powers, in deadly array; in the uncertainty and even treachery of those near and dear to us, and even of professed Christians, and of our own selves,—which we cannot trust for a moment; upon our unredeemed bodies; upon our general complete helplessness:—then, to have God say, “All things are working together for your good,”—reveals to us a Divine providence that is absolutely limitless! The book of Proverbs sets forth just such a God: for it describes the certain end, good or bad, of the various paths of men on earth—every minute detail ordered of God. So also Ephesians (1:11): “The purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His will”; and David: “All things are Thy servants” (Ps. 119:91); as also the whole prophetic Word,—yea, the whole Word of God; for the God of Providence is in all of it!
For good—Dark things, bright things; happy things, sad things; sweet things, bitter things; times of prosperity, times of adversity. The “great woman,” the Shunammite, with her one child lying at home dead, answers Elisha’s question, “Is it well with the child?”: “It is well.” “A soft pillow for a tired heart,” Romans 8:28 was called by our beloved Brother R. A. Torrey.
To them that are called according to His purpose—We come now
up on the high, celestial mountains of Divine Sovereign election, and find those
who love God are further defined as those that are “called” (not “invited,”185185 “Called” here does not mean invited,—as in Proverbs, for instance.
“Unto you, O men, I call”; for this would be an appeal to man’s will instead of
a description of those who are the objects of God’s will, His purpose. “Called,”
in the sense of Romans 8:28, is illustrated in
I Corinthians 1:24: where “Christ crucified” is declared to be a “stumbling-block”
to Jews (to people whose thought was religion) and “foolishness” to Greeks (to those
whose life lay in philosophy): but to ‘the called themselves” (Gr. margin) “Christ
the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Here “the called” are seen to be a. company
whose mark is neither religious response nor intellectual apprehending; but the
electing grace of God which has so marked out the sphere of their being, that they
are named “the called.” They are called according to His (God’s) purpose!
Now, that purpose is not merely an expressed Divine desire, but a fixed and vast will, that itself subordinates, necessarily, all things; submerges all opposition; effects its object. God’s purpose, in regard to “the called,” His “elect,” does, indeed, arise out of His desire, as well as being according to His infinite wisdom.
This is shown in: “Jehovah hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. Here will I dwell; for I have desired it” (Ps. 132:13, 14).
Also, “Because He [Jehovah] loved thy [Israel’s] fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them” (Deut. 4:37). Even those “chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,” are said to be “loved in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Go is love, “ and acts according to that nature. Out of His infinite, holy desire arose His Purpose. Reverse this order, and you have the god of the fatalist, not of the Bible. but given a Divine elective calling) according to His Purpose. Meditation upon the purpose of the eternal God greatens every soul thus occupied. God is infinite; man, a bit of dust. If God had a purpose, a fixed intention, it will come to pass, for He has limitless resources,—as David says, “All things are Thy servants.”
We have been dealing in the first part of the chapter with the human will and its consent to walk by the Spirit. Not so from the 28th verse to the chapter’s end. It will be all God from now on! Purpose means an intelligent decision which the will is bent to accomplish. The Greek word, prothesis, is used twelve times in the New Testament. As to man, the word is seen to indicate what he is entirely unable to carry through, as in Acts 27:13: They supposed “that they had obtained their purpose,” but the ship was wrecked. In the saints, their purpose is carried on by Divine grace, often with many failures: Acts 11:23, “He exhorted them all that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.” And in II Timothy 3:10, Paul refers Timothy to that “manner of life, purpose, faith,” which the apostle had shown at Ephesus, a purpose carried out to final victory in finishing his course. But, as he says, “By the grace of God I am what I am.”
In God, however, purpose is absolute,—wholly apart from contingencies. In the very next occurrence after Romans 8:28 we read, “that the purpose of God according to election might stand”—everything subordinated, and the end predicted. We read also in Ephesians 3:11 of a “purpose of the ages” which God has ordained and will carry through, just as our salvation is referred to as “not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages” (II Tim. 1:9).
Therefore we beg the reader in examining the great verses 29 and 30, to distinguish the things that differ, utterly refusing to confuse or mix them: (1) First, we shall find many Scriptures in which the consent of man’s will is asked, and blessing is contingent upon his consent; and some (“rocky ground people) will receive the Word “immediately with joy, and for awhile endure,” but in time of tribulation or persecution “fall away.” (2) Second, we shall find plainly written in Scripture the purpose of God according to which He works effectually; and all His elect are brought safely in, and there is no separating them from His love which was given them in Christ Jesus, in whom they were “chosen before the foundation of the world.”
Now do not seek to mix these two things; and still more emphatically we say, do not try to “reconcile” them! Profitless controversy and partisan feeling will be the only result. Who told us to “reconcile” in our little minds, these seemingly contradictory things? Have we ceased to believe where we do not understand?
Every system of theology undertakes to subject the words of God to categories and catalogs of the human intellect. Now, if you undertake to “reconcile” God’s sovereign election with His free offer of salvation to all, you must sacrifice one truth or the other. Our poor minds may not “reconcile” them both, but our faith knows them both, and holds both, to be true! And Scripture is addressed to faith, not to reason.
Verse 29: For whom He foreknew He also foreordained conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren.
For whom He foreknew—This for looks back at the word purpose, and opens out that great word before us.
And first we have, foreknew. This foreknowledge of God.—what is it? In seeking its meaning we dare not turn to men’s ideas, but to Scripture only.186186“It is important to observe that the apostle does not speak of a passive or naked foreknowlege as if God only saw beforehand what some would be, and do, or believe. His foreknowledge is of persons, not of their state or conduct; it is not what, but ‘whom’ He foreknew” (Kelly). In Amos 1:2 to 2:8, Jehovah gives in detail His exact knowledge of the sins and of the coming judgments of Syria, the Philistines, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab; and then also of Israel. But to Israel He says, “You only have I known, of all the families of the earth.” What did such language mean? That He had acquaintanceship with “the whole family which He brought up out of the land of Egypt.” Of Israel again—especially the godly Remnant, He speaks: “God did not cast off His people which He foreknew.” Now, even of Christ it is written in I Peter 1:20, “He was foreknown indeed before the foundations of the world.” This is the same Greek word as in Romans 8:29. Now Christ was the Eternal Son of God, the Eternal Word. But, “The Word become flesh”: that occurred when He came into the world. And as thus manifested, “He was foreknown.” It was not a mere Divine pre-knowledge that He would be manifested; but a pre-acquaintanceship before His manifestation,—with Him as such! From which “foreknowledge,” or pre-acquaintance, flowed the most intimate prophecies of Him, His lowly coming, His rejection, and the manner of His death. All this is wrapped up in this word foreknowledge!
He also foreordained—Foreknowledge is first—by the God that “calleth the things not being, being” (4.17, Gr.). Then, the marking out a destiny befitting such foreknown ones. The words “to be” need not be here: but we may read, foreordained conformed to the image of His Son. Here we come to words of plain meaning, but limitless reach! Christ the Son, for whom and by whom all things were made; Christ the Son, the appointed Heir of all things; Christ the Son—center of all the Divine counsels! Christ the Son, God’s Son, the Son of His love! Conformed to His image,—nothing lacking, nothing short: like Christ—conformed to His image: in glory, in love, in holiness, in beauty, in grace, in humility, in tenderness, in patience! Our very bodies at last alive unto God! For we know that this also shall be: “When Christ, our life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory!” And thus to be with Christ, like Him forever and ever! Only God can show, and only simple faith respond to, grace such as this!
That He might be the First-born among many brethren—In Christ, like Christ, brethren there with the First-born! This is the highest place, shall we not say, that God could give creatures! God puts us there: and of Christ it is written, “He is not ashamed to call them brethren”; because we are “all of one with Christ! (Heb. 2:11). “This, in fact, is the thought of grace, not to bless us only by Jesus, but to bless us with Him”.
Verse 30: And whom He foreordained, them He also called—Since we are here considering God’s unfolding of His purpose (of verse 28), we must regard called from God’s side,—who counts things not being, being. Further, calling is here that determination by God of the sphere and mode of life those should have whom He foreknew and foreordained. This “calling” belongs to Eternity past; as “calling,” for example in II Thessalonians 2:14; Gal. 1:6, belongs to experience in present time.
And whom He called, them He also justified—God does not here speak of that entering upon justification by faith—of which this Epistle is full. For only believing souls are accounted righteous, justified, as we well know. Yet in God’s counsels are all His elect already before Him, accounted righteous—justified. This is wonderful truth: and its power to stay the soul will be seen in the last part of this great Chapter!
And whom He justified, them He also glorified—This is the necessary end of this amazing series—glorified! Thus must these foreknown ones be ever, before God, since God foreknew them in Christ. None has yet been glorified in manifestation. Indeed, Christ Himself has not yet been “manifested”; although He has entered into His glory. And it is in this glorified Christ that God chose us long ago,—before the foundation of the world! God, who could thus connect us with Christ, can also say of us, I have glorified them! And so the saints go on to a glory already true of them by the word of their God!
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He that even spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? [It is] God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth? 34 Christ Jesus [God’s own Son] is the one that died,—yea rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who is also making intercession for us! 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Even as it is written,
On account of thee we are killed all day long:
We were reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Concerning this great passage, Bengel says, “We can no farther go, think, wish.” Olshausen emphasizes “the profound and colossal character of the thought”; and Brown says: “This whole passage, to verse 34 and even to the end of the chapter, strikes all thoughtful interpreters and readers as transcending almost everything in language.”
Paul here arrives at the mountain-height of Christian position! And that, so to speak, by way of experience. He does, indeed, in the word “us” bring all the saints with him. There was first our state of awful guilt—and Christ’s work for us, and justification thereby. Then came the knowledge of indwelling sin, and the Spirit’s work within us, and deliverance from sin’s power thereby. Now he has arrived upon the immovable mountain-top of Divine sovereign election, and he sees God Himself for us! Not at all meaning, here, God merely on our side in our struggles, but God’s uncaused unalterable attitude with respect to those in Christ. God is for them: nothing in time or in eternity to come has anything whatever to do with matters here. Our weak hearts, prone to legality and unbelief, with great difficulty receive these mighty words: God is for us. Place the emphasis here where God places it—on this great word “for.” God is for His elect. They have failed, but He is for them. They are ignorant, but He is for them. They have not yet brought forth much fruit, but He is for them. If our hearts once surrender to the stupendous fact that there are those whom God will eternally be for, that there is an electing act and attitude of God, in which He eternally commits Himself to His elect,—without conditions, without requirements; whose lives do not at all affect the fact that God is for them—then we shall be ready to magnify the God of all grace!
Verse 31: What then shall we say to these things? By “these things” Paul evidently indicates not only the whole process of our salvation by Christ, from Chapter Three onward, with that great deliverance by the help of the Holy Spirit set forth in this Eighth Chapter; but he also points most directly to what He has been telling us of the purpose of God: “Whom He foreknew, foreordained, called, justified, glorified!” Now it is a sad fact that many dear saints have said many poor, even lamentable things, to these things of Divine sovereign foreknowledge and election. Some, indeed, will not hear “these things,” as Paul sets them forth. Let us not be of this company! What shall we say to these things? To doubt them is to deny them: for God asserts them—from foreknowledge to glorification. To question whether they apply to us is to question—not election, but the words “whosoever will,” of the gospel invitation. You can let God be absolutely sovereign in election, and yet, if you find the door opened by this sovereign God, and “whosoever will” written over it by that same sovereign God, by all means enter! Set your seal to this, that God is true, by receiving His witness (John 3:33). Do not allow any “system of theology” to disturb you for one moment! What will you say to these things? Say, with Paul: God is for me: He spared not His own Son—for me! This question, What shall we say to these things? is a testing word, as well, as a triumphant word.
Concerning “these things,” if we simply rejoice, with Paul, saying, “God is for me, who is against me?” it is well! But if we cannot rejoice in Divine, sovereign foreknowledge, foreordination, and calling, this also is the fruit of subtle unbelief and self-righteousness. “I know,” said Spurgeon, “that God chose me before I was born’ for He never would have chosen me afterwards!” Let us not be of the Little-faiths, or of the Faint-hearts; but let Mr. Greatheart himself, even Paul, set forth the case: If God be for us, who is against us? This “if” does not imply doubt, but amounts to since. We are expected to have heard understood, and believed all the previous marvels of our salvation written in this epistle. The conclusion is: GOD IS FOR US. The Creator of the universe, the Upholder of all things, the Redeemer God Himself, for us!
Therefore the challenge: who is against us? Paul knew as none have ever known, the power and malignity of Satan and his hosts, the persecuting energy of the haters of the gospel, the relentless watchfulness of the Roman Empire— that had flung justice to the winds, and crucified Paul’s Lord, and ever stood ready, upon occasion, to seize him. Yet he challenges all! It is not a question of logic, as the King James puts it: “Who can be against us?” But it is a direct challenge in the lists: to all and any in the whole possible universe: literally. If God for us—who against us?
Verse 32: He that even187187Both the R.V. and the King James neglect to translate the little particle (Gr. ge) which gives this passage its peculiar emphasis: Literally: “God for US . . . . who even spared not His own Son!” went even that length. spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all—This is the God who is for us; and this is the proof! Spared not—what that word shows! Of the infinite price of redemption! of the measureless unconquerable love of God that would not be stopped at such frightful cost! “His own Son”; His only Son; His well-beloved Son,—from all eternity! And for us! Ah, how wretched we are, even in our own sight! guilty, undone, defiled, powerless, worthless,—for us all! Verily, “the most miserable of sheep!” (Zech. 11:7).
Then, delivered Him up—We remember immediately the same word in Chapter 4:25: “delivered up for our trespasses.” Yea, we know for why: but unto what? gainsaying, mocking, spitting, scourging, crucifying—by men; and to the awful cup of wrath for our sin at God’s hand—infinitely more appalling that any creature stroke! Yet God spared not—His own Son, but delivered Him up!
For us all—Here the saints are spoken of. (Paul never uses “us” of any others!) And who are the saints? Sinners who have heard God’s good news concerning His Son, and have simply believed! Only faith can walk here! Unbelief, coming to the fearful gulf between the infinitely holy God and the awful guilt of the sinner, shrinks back; while faith, seeing Christ crucified, cries, God is for me! and passes gladly over the bridge God made—who spared not His own Son!
How shall He not also with Him freely give us all things?—The great gift, the unspeakable gift, being made, all must follow! “How shall He not, with Him?” If you buy a costly watch at the jeweller’s, he sends it to you in a lovely case which he gives you freely—with your purchase. It is as in Chapter Five, with the “much mores.” God has not spared His Son: what are all else to Him? God has opened to us His heart, He has spared not,—giving us His best, His all—even Christ. Now, with Him, all things come! God cannot but do this. Shall He give us His dear Son, and then hold back at trifles? For “all things” of this created universe,—yea, even all gifts or blessings God may give us, here or hereafter, are but nothing, compared with Christ!
“All things”: It will greatly please God for us boldly to beg Him for this or that, saying: Thou didst not spare Thy Son, but gavest Him for me. Now I need a thing from Thee; and I ask it as one to whom Thou gavest Christ! “How shall He not?” not, “How shall He?’—as doubt would put it! Let “all things” be all things indeed to thee,—only seeking wisdom in asking. This verse is a great feeder of faith!
Verse 33: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? Note (1) It is God’s elect whom this passage concerns. (2) God’s elect not only believe, but are confident! For there can be no charge laid against them. (3) They boldly challenge any and every foe, concerning any possible charge against them before God! It is not that those triumphing are without fault in themselves—they know that! But God is for them! They are His “elect,” and we know from the next chapter that the purpose of God according to election is not of works”: but on the contrary, “of Him that calleth” (Romans 9:11). As absolutely as righteousness is “not of works,” so neither is election! Both have God Himself as the only Source! So, “the purpose of God according to election stands!”
It is God that justifieth:188188Note that the last statement of verse 33—“It is God that justifieth,” is connected with the opening question of verse 34. The verse division is unfortunate, and beclouds the meaning. The second sentence of verse 34, Christ Jesus is the one that died, etc., is entirely separate from and an advance upon, the preceding verses. who is he that condemneth?—Here the emphasis is upon God. He is the Judge; and He has declared His elect,—those “of faith in Jesus,” righteous. Now will any condemn? Shall any stand before God’s High Court and condemn whom He has justified? Never! Satan may accuse us in our consciences; but the day of our condemnation was past forever—when Christ our Substitute “bore our sins in His own body on the tree!” When it is announced as toward all possible foes: “It is God that justifies,” we feel in our hearts God taking our part!
Verse 34: Christ Jesus [God’s own Son] is the one that died,—yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who is also making intercession for us!
Some would render the answer to the question of verse 33, “Who shall lay anything to the charge,” etc., entirely in the question form: “Shall God that justifieth? Shall Christ that died?” We have not yielded to rendering it thus; for this question-form does not fit the bold challenge here: for this whole passage is governed by the great word: Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? And further, verse 35, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? God then, is seen “for us,” as justifying; His own Son Christ Jesus as dying and as interceding for us. All of which commits God to us irreversibly! The Yea, rather, that was raised from the dead, follows the exact order of the development of the truth of Christ’s work in this epistle: set forth as a mercy-seat through faith in His blood in Chapter Three; God seen raising Him who was delivered on account of our trespasses in Chapter Four. There is no crucifix, no Romanism, here; no dead Christ, but One raised.
Nay, more, Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God,—We have
here the first of seven historical statements in the Epistles that He is there,189189The other instances: Ephesians 1:20; Hebrews 1:3; 8:1;
10:12; 12:2; Col. 3:1.
and not merely there in the place of honor and power, but occupied (as ever) for
our benefit: who also is making intercession for us. In verse 8:22,
the indwelling Spirit is making intercession for the saints; in verse 31, God is
for us; in verse 34, Christ Jesus is making intercession for us. What a wonderful
salvation this is, in which all three persons of the Trinity are constantly occupied
in our behalf!190190 Christ Jesus making intercession for us at the right hand of
God in Heaven, is not properly Romans truth, but is brought in here simply to show
His eternal commitment to our cause. We say this because the remnants of Romish
unbelief lie in most or all of us. For instance, take the lines,
“O blessed feet of Jesus, weary with seeking me,
Kneel at God’s bar of judgment, and intercede for me!”
What a mixture and hodge-podge such words are! Christ is not “appeasing God” in Heaven. That was all done forever on the cross where our sins were put away. Our Lord as our High Priest in Heaven now leads our worship and praise, and looks after us in our infirmity. The book of Hebrews opens out this. But it is that same book which says, “He, when He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God” (10:12). The work on which faith rests has been done, and those who rely on Christ’s work on the cross will find their needs taken care of by Christ in Heaven.
Verse 35: When Paul says. Who shall separate us from Christ’s love? and then begins to enumerate things, it is plain that in the word “Who” he has in mind the great enemy who opposes “things” to God’s saints! Satan is “prince of this world,” and “god of this age”: this the apostle always has before him: “that no advantage may be gained over us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” So he says: Who shall separate us? shall tribulation? Thirty-seven times this word rendered “tribulation” (thlipsis) and its verb are used to denote those direct troubles that afflict the saints,—because of the gospel! Satan has sought,—and, oh, how desperately,—but has never succeeded in separating one saint from Christ’s love by tribulations! (See this word in Matt. 13:21; I Thess. 1:6; 3:3; John 16:33.) And God sees to it that the path of the Christian is a narrow, “straitened one! (Matthew 7:14 has the same word—“narrow.” See also II Cor. 4:8; 7:5)
And now the next word—distress. This word (stenochoria) is rightly translated “anguish” in Chapter 2:9; for there it evidently means a fixed place in which “every soul of man that doeth evil” is held while Divine judgment is visited. The word means a narrow, cramped place, where one is “in straits.” For the lost this is unendurable; for the saved, it. only affords room for God’s help, when naught else can avail. So, distresses—how terrible soever—cannot separate from Christ’s love. (See the note on the Russian women in Chapter Five.) Remember Christ, the Lord of glory, had not a place to lay His head: He knows what distresses are!
Or persecution—(diōgmos). This is a word used ten times in the New Testament, and always in reference to the gospel. It’s verb means, “to make to run,” or “to run swiftly to catch” those pursued; so, to persecute. No saint thus persecuted has yet been forsaken by Christ,—nor ever will be! “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” Christ never forsakes, but has the sweetest fellowship with those persecuted by the world,—directed (under God’s permissive decree only!) by Satan. Christ is always saying, “Be of good cheer!” (Acts 23:11.)
Famine—comes next. And you would think that the Lord of all would ever provide liberally for His saints. Not always! The “present distress” is on. Christ the Heir was cast out of Israel’s vineyard and slain! The Head of the new Body has indeed been glorified. But why should not the members of His Body know by experience what the Head passed through and thus find fellowship with the Head? Thus they come to have one heart with Him! “Famine?” Yes. But not to separate us from Christ’s love! “I know how to be in want,” says Paul. Twelve times is “famine” (limos) mentioned in the New Testament: though only twice (here in Rom. 8:35; II Cor. 11:27—this last concerning an apostle!) does it directly touch the saints. In Acts 11:28, indeed they get relief (though by other saints, not by government agency!). Yea; you may be hungry in this Christ-rejecting world, ‘and yet be beloved of your Lord. “The meek shall inherit the earth”—but not yet! Not till He comes back!
“All here is stained with blood!—
Thy blood, O glorious Christ!
And man and Satan do today
Whate’er they list!”
(Yet do not forget that, amidst it all, God lives! The God of Elijah still looks after His own!)
Or nakedness—In I Corinthians 4:11, Paul says, “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling-place.” (Read the whole passage.) How ashamed we feel, who are not as devoted to our Lord as was Paul, to hear him speak thus! This whole part of Romans Eight shows us as partakers with a Christ the world cast out.
Or peril—Eight times in one verse, II Corinthians 11:26, does Paul use this word. Read that verse, remembering the same word in I Corinthians 15:30: “We stand in jeopardy [peril] every hour.” In Paul’s bringing you this gospel, Jewish hatred, Roman jealousy, pagan blindness (Acts 14:8-20) and false brethren (Acts 15) beset him round,—striving that “the truth of the gospel” might come unto us! God grant we cherish it! Many have suffered, that we might have these wondrous truths!
Or sword—The first use of this word (machaira) is connected with our Lord Himself: Matthew 26:47: “A great multitude with swords and staves” to take Him; while Acts 12:2 (“Herod . . . killed James the brother of John with the sword”), and Hebrews 11:37 (“They were slain with the sword”), give only examples of the attitude of this world toward Christ and His saints. The world hates the saints; though sometimes those making most hideous use of the sword have worn “the sign of the cross.” That was the world’s religion; and, like Cain, it killed God’s people. But, even in the hour of death most terrible, Christ was there: they were not separated from His love!
Even as it is written,
On account of Thee we are killed all the day long:
We were reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.
Here, then, is the description of God’s saints: “killed perpetually,” and “sheep for slaughter.” We know that this quotation is taken from a Psalm (44:22) which describes that terrible hunting down by the Antichrist of the godly remnant of Israel in the days of the Great Tribulation. But today—all the day [of grace] long, this is the real state of real saints: killed, and slaughter-sheep! To the student of God’s Word, the many years of outward peace—from persecution, horrors, and death,—that have come to us is the unusual, the astonishing thing. Look at the “deaths oft” of the early Church, the martyrs; and again when truth burst out afresh at the Reformation! (See footnote p. 475)
But now again! look at Russia, look at Germany, look all around! Ruthless hatred of God’s saints is breaking out everywhere, as of old!
Now, we ought not to view such things with alarm, but, on the contrary, to remember that Christ has not yet set up His kingdom,191191As we say elsewhere, the mouthings of the “Modernist” who knows not the prophetic Word (and would not bow to it if it were shown to him) must not be listened to for a moment. The “Stone” of the Second of Daniel strikes that great prophetic Image of Gold, Silver, Brass, Iron, and Iron-Clay feet, with a sudden unexpected impact, destroying the whole Gentile order of things,—away down in the feet and toes period. The Kingdom of the Most High is then, and not till then, set up. We all know that those born again shall “see the Kingdom of God”—indeed, are in that Kingdom, as spiritually existing. But no others, no “social order,” no man-made conditions, are in the Kingdom! Further, to those born .again, God says, “The Kingdom of God is righteousness and joy and peace, in the Holy Ghost.” Outside the Spirit, the Kingdom of God does not exist. Indeed, the Kingdom has not yet been given to Christ in heaven by the Father. When it is given to Him (Rev. 5; Psalm 2:7-9), He will Himself come and set up His Kingdom in power according to Matthew 13:36-43; 25:31-46. Read these words of Christ, and believe them,—hearkening to no “peace, peace” words of the “Modern” dreamers. nor will till His second coming! Satan is the prince of this world, and shall yet be exhibited as the “god of this age”—see Revelation Thirteen. For,
“The whole earth wondered after the Wild Beast [Satan’s man, the Antichrist]; and they worshipped the dragon [Satan] . . . and there was given to him authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation. And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, every one whose name hath not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that hath been slain.”
Let the saints rouse quickly from these false dreams of “peace.” The saints are sheep for slaughter! Name yourself among them, and cease contending for your “rights” in a world that has cast out Christ! Persecution is shaping itself up again throughout Christendom—yea, even in the United States. Intolerance unto death for any who will not bow to a totalitarian state is ready, as in the days of the Roman emperors (who demanded worship) to assert itself,—is asserting itself, throughout the world. This “totalitarian” movement is setting the stage for Antichrist more rapidly than you dream! Therefore get ready. Put up over your mirror the motto: “I am Christ’s: a sheep for slaughter.”
Verse 37: Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!
What a wonderful book this Word of God is! “Sheep for slaughter” naming themselves more than conquerors!192192It is evident that those whose description is “killed all the day long” “sheep for slaughter” will never become more than conquerors, or conquerors at all, through moral influence,” human “merits,” “the ballot box,” “the betterment of humanity,” “interracial understanding”! No, not with Satan prince and god, here! And he will be such until cast into the abyss (Rev. 20) at Christ’s coming.
Now note three things in this verse: (1) We are conquerors in all this terrible situation, in all these things. (2) We are more than conquerors. (3) It is altogether through Him that loved us, and not through human energy of any kind, that we are more than conquerors.
Now, what is it to be “more than conquerors?” (a) It is to come off conqueror in every difficulty, (b) It is to know that Divine, and therefore infinite, power has been engaged for us in the conflict, (c) It is the absolute confidence that this infinite and therefore limitless Divine help is granted to us against any possible future emergency, (d) It is to “divide the spoil” over any foe, after victory! (Isa. 53:12.)
Him that loved us—Note first the past tense. That preaching which always emphasizes the present love of God or Christ for the soul, as the great persuading power over the human heart, falls sadly short. When our Lord described God’s love for the world, it was, “God so loved that He gave His Son.” Again, “Herein is love, that God loved us, and sent His Son.” Again, when Paul describes Christ’s love for His own it is by pointing to His sacrifice. Here (in Rom. 8:37) the cross is indicated, as in verse 32 of our chapter: “He that spared not His own Son.”
Further, when Christ’s love for the Church is described, it is again the past tense—“Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for it” (Eph. 5:25). And, “The Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). It is this past tense gospel the devil hates,—for “the Word of the Cross is the power of God.” Let a preacher be continually saying, “God loves you, Christ loves you,” and he and his congregation will by and by be losing sight both of their sinnerhood and of the substitutionary atonement of the cross, where the love of God and of Christ was once for all and supremely set forth,—and in righteous display!
Now whether God or Christ is indicated in Him that loved us in this verse, what we have said holds true.
Frankly we personally feel that the rendering “the love of God” in verse 35, is correct. And this because it is the love of God that is emphasized throughout this passage, from verse 31 to the end. For note, it is God that is for us, God spared not His Son; God justifieth. And it is Christ Jesus whom He had “not spared,” that died, that was raised, who is at the right hand of God, and who intercedes. From such love of God (as good authorities read in verse 35), no difficulties can separate us.
We know, however, that verse 39 definitely declares that it is “the love of God which is in Christ Jesus” from which nothing can separate us.
Therefore, we are also quite strongly drawn to read “the love of Christ” in verse 35, because (1) Christ’s work for us has just been described in the immediately preceding verse; and also (2) because of the glorious historical fact that the martyrs were directly conscious, in the midst of the flames and when they were thrown to the beasts, of the presence and love of Christ, their Redeemer, Lord and Head.
But, however we read, both are correct!
Verse 38: For I am persuaded—Before we quote the last two verses of this triumphant paean, let us lay to heart this word persuaded, for it is the key to Paul’s triumph as he goes shouting up these mountain heights of Christian faith. “Persuaded” is a heart word. The difference between knowing a truth and being heart-persuaded of it, Paul brings out in Chapter 14:14: “I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean of itself.” (See that passage.) Many people know, for example, that in this dispensation all distinctions of meats have been removed; yet their consciences are not relieved. Weakness and fear still trouble them—about meats and days and many things. To know a Bible truth, you have only to read it: to be “persuaded of it in the Lord Jesus” involves the fact, first, that the truth in question touches your own personal safety before God; and, second, that your heart has so been enlightened by the Holy Spirit, and your will so won over—persuaded”—that confidence, heart-satisfied persuasion, results.
Now Paul says in Romans 8:38: I am persuaded—Dear saints, had not Paul passed through all these terrible things of verse 35, tribulation, anguish, persecution,—all? Look at the scars on his body! Assurance? He had it: “In the sight of God speak we in Christ” (II Cor. 12:19); “Seeing that ye seek a proof of Christ that speaketh in me” (II Cor. 13:3). Confidence? Hearken to his last epistle: “The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be the glory unto the ages of the ages” (II Tim. 4:18). “Persuaded?” His mind, his conscience, his heart, his whole being, were sublimely committed to what he is about to say. The days of doubt and uncertainty were forever passed for him!
Verses 38, 39: For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How we do misquote this verse, putting it according to natural thought, “neither life nor death.” But God says, neither death nor life. To the instructed believer, the fear of death is gone (see Hebrews 2:14, 15). Christ partook of it: “That through death He might bring to nought him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver all them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
But life! Ah, life is so much more difficult than death!—life with its burdens, its bitternesses, its disappointments, its uncertainties; often with its physical miseries,—as Job said, “My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than these my bones.” But just as death cannot separate us from this unchangeable love of God in Christ, neither can any circumstances of life do it!
Nor angels—Whether we speak of the elect angels—the angels of God’s power, in the presence of whom the saints have felt overwhelmed by their utter unworthiness (as Daniel, Dan 10:8-17); or whether it be the malignant angels, who chose Satan’s captaincy, and are a unity with him in evil;—no angels can separate us from that love of God which is fixed forever in Christ.
Nor principalities—Here we touch a mysterious word. We know from Ephesians 1:21 that there is an ordered realm of unseen authorities whether of good or of evil (Eph. 2:2; 6:12). But with none of them have we anything to do, for whatever they are, they cannot separate us from God’s love in Christ.
Nor things present nor things to come—In Job’s case, Satan dealt in “things present”—and they were as bad as hellish enmity could make them. But they did not separate from God’s love, for look at “the end of the Lord,” with Job. In the cases of David and Elijah, Satan dealt in “futures”: David said, “I shall now one day perish by the hand of Saul.” Yet shortly he sat on the throne! And Jezebel threatened, “I will make thy life as the life of one of them [the slain prophets] by tomorrow about this time.” When Elijah saw that, (alas, these “thats” of the devil!) “he arose, and went for his life.” Yet God took him up by a chariot of fire into heaven!
Nor powers—The word translated “powers”193193In Ephesians 6:12, in the expression “principalities and powers,” the first word, (archai) is the word translated “principalities” in Romans 8:38, meaning one in high position in the unseen world. The second word, “powers,” in Ephesians 6:12, is the Greek exousia, and is directly connected with “principalities,” being a word indicative of authority, rather than energy. See Matthew 10:1; Acts 26:10,12. here is dunamis, energy: and has reference evidently to those uncanny and horrible workings of Satan and his host seen in spiritism, theosophy, and all kinds of magic. Indeed, this very word is used in Acts 8:10 concerning Simon the Magician: “They said, This man is that power (dunamis) of God which is called Great.” All kinds of bewitchment, sorcery, necromancy, “evil eye,” and “mystic spells” cast upon people are included. Now I know that sorcery, the “evil eye,” “spells,” are potent over the unsaved. But, it is a sad fact that many dear saints are troubled by these things. They are afraid—of Friday the thirteenth, of passing under a ladder, of seeing a black cat, of breaking a mirror! Now this simply leaves God out! Who rules in earth’s affairs, Satan or God?
People say to me, “Do you believe there is anything in spiritism?” I say,”I certainly do—the devil’s in it!” But none of these “powers” can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord. There is no such thing as “luck.” Let us cease to dishonor God by mentioning it! “God worketh all things after the counsel of His will.” I have seen professing Christians “knock on wood” if making some confident statement! (I am ashamed as I write this.) Let us be “persuaded” of the love which God, without cause in us, has unchangeable toward us in Christ Jesus our Lord. No matter how real, insidious, terrifying these demon powers may be, we are safe in Christ! If you want to be free from superstition and fears, do as James directs: “Ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that.” That brings God in!
Verse 39: Nor height, nor depth—The astronomers would frighten us with their figures of the vastness of the universe But Christ has passed through all the heavens, and is at the right hand of God! And God has loved us in Christ—there is no separation from that love. But “depth”—Ah, poor mortals we are afraid, even of earthly cliffs and chasms. Yea, but Christ descended into “the lower parts of the earth,” into “the abyss” at “the heart of the earth” (Eph. 4:9; Rom 10:7; Matt. 12:40). Moreover, He has said that His Church would not enter the gates of Hades (Matt. 16:18). And they shall not! But even if God had arranged that they should, Christ says to John, “Fear not; I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades!” This is indeed a glorious salvation! No “depth” can separate us from God’s love in Christ.
Nor any other created thing—There! That should banish all our fears, no matter what they be. The ability of the human heart to conjure up possible trouble and disaster is without limit, it seems: but this word gives us peace. No created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in. Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Notice that this love of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Why God set His love upon us, we cannot tell. Why He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, connecting our destiny eternally with Christ His beloved Son, we cannot tell. But, “Whatsoever Jehovah doeth, it shall be forever.” We must therefore hold in mind this fact, that God has loved us even as He loved Christ (John 17:26): for He loved us in Him.
Some dear saints seem to think that it is a mark of humility to doubt the security of God’s elect. But Romans has surely shown us the way to be certain! Do not try to assure your heart that you are one of God’s elect. If you are troubled with doubts, go and sit down on the sinner’s seat, and say, “God declares righteous the ungodly who trust Him. I renounce all thoughts of my own righteousness, and as a sinner I trust the God who raised Christ from the dead,—who was delivered up for my trespasses.” This is the path our God in Romans shows us. Uncertainty about election arises from some kind of self-righteousness!
As we have elsewhere noted, the saints are those who have received Him whom God in His great love gave to the world, and they by Divine grace welcomed this only-begotten Son whom God has given. Therefore the love of God in Christ Jesus is forever theirs. However the world of men may treat this astonishing unspeakable gift which God has proffered, and may go on rejecting Christ till a day when it must be eternally withdrawn; yet God’s elect, the saints, “those who have believed,” find themselves borne upon the irresistible tide of this Divine affection which “is in Christ Jesus,” out into an eternity of bliss! “God is love,” and “the Father loveth the Son.” And now these connected with Christ find themselves wrapped in this same eternal affection shown by God to His dear Son.
When we fail utterly, and are overwhelmed, then is the time to say: We have been accepted in Christ—only in Christ, wholly in Christ. Our place is unchanged by our failure. We are ashamed before God, but not confounded. Just now His eyes are on us in Christ, as they ever have been. His love is as deep and wonderful as ever, being “the love wherewith He loved Christ”! We do not resolve to “do better,” for we are weak. We trust the grace of God in Christ and cast ourselves anew, and all the more wholly, upon His grace alone. We trust Him never to forsake or fail us: for He hath loved us in His beloved Son; and God will never forsake Christ! For His sake will He deal with us now and ever.
How hard it is to turn away from its object the love even of a man, a creature, a bit of dust! How eternally impossible, then, that the infinite God should be turned away from His love to those that are in Christ Jesus!
The wonderful text of this passage, GOD IS FOR US, fills our amazed and grateful hearts more and more.
MY HIGH TOWER
By Paul Gerhardt: A.D. 1676
IS GOD FOR ME? I fear not, though all against me rise;
I call on Christ my Savior, the host of evil flies.
My friend the Lord Almighty, and He who loves me, God!
What enemy shall harm me, though coming as a flood?
I know it, I believe it, I say it fearlessly,
That God, the Highest, Mightiest, forever loveth me;
At all times, in all places, He standeth at my side,
He rules the battle fury, the tempest and the tide.
A Rock that Stands forever is Christ my righteousness,
And there I stand unfearing in everlasting bliss;
No earthly thing is needful to this my life from Heaven,
And nought of love is worthy, save that which Christ hath given.
Christ, all my praise and glory, my Light most sweet and fair,
The ship wherein He saileth is scathless everywhere!
In Him I dare be joyful, a hero in the war
The judgment of the sinner affrighteth me no more!
There is no condemnation, there is no hell for me,
The torment and the fire mine eyes shall never see;
For me there is no sentence, for me death has no stings,
Because the Lord Who saved me shall shield me with His wings.
Above my soul’s dark waters His Spirit hovers still,
He guards me from all sorrow, from terror and from ill;
In me He works and blesses the life-seed He hath sown,
From Him I learn the Abba, that prayer of faith alone.
And if in lonely places, a fearful child, I shrink,
He prays the prayers within me I cannot ask or think;
In deep unspoken language, known only to that Love
Who fathoms the heart’s mystery from the Throne of Light above.
His Spirit to my spirit sweet words of comfort saith,
How God the weak one strengthens who leans on Him in faith;
How He hath built a City, of love, and light, and song,
Where the eye at last beholdeth what the heart had loved so long.
And there is mine inheritance, my kingly palace-home;
The leaf may fall and perish, not less the spring will come;
As wind and rain of winter, our earthly sighs and tears,
Till the golden summer dawneth of the endless Year of years.
The world may pass and perish, Thou, God, wilt not remove—
No hatred of all devils can part me from Thy love;
No hungering nor thirsting, no poverty nor care,
No wrath of mighty princes can reach my shelter there.
No Angel, and no Heaven, no throne, nor power, nor might,
No love, no tribulation, no danger, fear, nor fight,
No height, no depth, no creature that has been or can be,
Can drive me from Thy bosom, can sever me from Thee.
My heart in joy upleapeth, grief cannot linger there—
While singing high in glory amidst the sunshine fair!
The source of all my singing is high in Heaven above;
The Sun that shines upon me is Jesus and His Love!
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