Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
CONCLUSION OF THE
In this surpassing chapter the several streams of the preceding argument
meet and flow in one "river of the water of life, clear as crystal,
proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb," until it seems to
lose itself in the ocean of a blissful eternity.
FIRST: The Sanctification of Believers
1. There is therefore now, &c.--referring to the immediately
&c.]. The subject with which the seventh chapter concludes is still
under consideration. The scope of
is to show how "the law of sin and death" is deprived of its power to
bring believers again into bondage, and how the holy law of God
receives in them the homage of a living obedience
no condemnation: to them which are in Christ Jesus--As Christ, who
"knew no sin," was, to all legal effects, "made sin for us," so are we,
who believe in Him, to all legal effects, "made the righteousness of God
and thus, one with Him in the divine reckoning. there is to such
"NO CONDEMNATION." (Compare
Joh 3:18; 5:24;
Ro 5:18, 19).
But this is no mere legal arrangement: it is a union in
life; believers, through the indwelling of Christ's Spirit in
them, having one life with Him, as truly as the head and the members of
the same body have one life.
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit--The evidence of
manuscripts seems to show that this clause formed no part of the
original text of this verse, but that the first part of it was early
introduced, and the second later, from
probably as an explanatory comment, and to make the transition to
2. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me
free--rather, "freed me"--referring to the time of his conversion,
when first he believed.
from the law of sin and death--It is the Holy Ghost who is here
called "the Spirit of life," as opening up in the souls of
believers a fountain of spiritual life (see on
Joh 7:38, 39);
just as He is called "the Spirit of truth," as "guiding them into all
and "the Spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the
fear of the Lord"
as the inspirer of these qualities. And He is called "the Spirit of
life in Christ Jesus," because it is as members of Christ that
He takes up His abode in believers, who in consequence of this have one
life with their Head. And as the word "law" here has the same
meaning as in
namely, "an inward principle of action, operating with the fixedness
and regularity of a law," it thus appears that "the law of the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" here means, "that new principle of
action which the Spirit of Christ has opened up within us--the law of
our new being." This "sets us free," as soon as it takes
possession of our inner man, "from the law of sin and death" that is,
from the enslaving power of that corrupt principle which carries death
in its bosom. The "strong man armed" is overpowered by the "stronger
than he"; the weaker principle is dethroned and expelled by the more
powerful; the principle of spiritual life prevails against and brings
into captivity the principle of spiritual death--"leading captivity
captive." If this be the apostle's meaning, the whole verse is to this
effect: That the triumph of believers over their inward corruption,
through the power of Christ's Spirit in them, proves them to be
in Christ Jesus, and as such absolved from condemnation. But this is
now explained more fully.
3, 4. For what the law could not do, &c.--a difficult and much
controverted verse. But it is clearly, we think, the law's inability to
free us from the dominion of sin that the apostle has in view;
as has partly appeared already (see on
and will more fully appear presently. The law could irritate our sinful
nature into more virulent action, as we have seen in
but it could not secure its own fulfilment. How that is accomplished
comes now to be shown.
in that it was weak through the flesh--that is, having to address
itself to us through a corrupt nature, too strong to be influenced by
mere commands and threatenings.
God, &c.--The sentence is somewhat imperfect in its structure, which
occasions a certain obscurity. The meaning is, that whereas the law
was powerless to secure its own fulfilment for the reason given, God
took the method now to be described for attaining that end.
his own Son--This and similar expressions plainly imply that
Christ was God's "OWN SON"
before He was sent--that is, in His own proper Person, and
independently of His mission and appearance in the flesh (see on
and if so, He not only has the very nature of God, even as a son
of his father, but is essentially of the Father, though in a
sense too mysterious for any language of ours properly to define (see
on the first through fourth chapters). And this peculiar relationship
is put forward here to enhance the greatness and define the
nature of the relief provided, as coming from beyond the
precincts of sinful humanity altogether, yea, immediately from
the Godhead itself.
in the likeness of sinful flesh--literally, "of the flesh of sin"; a
very remarkable and pregnant expression. He was made in the reality of
our flesh, but only in the likeness of its sinful condition. He took
our nature as it is in us, compassed with infirmities, with nothing to
distinguish Him as man from sinful men, save that He was without sin.
Nor does this mean that He took our nature with all its properties save
one; for sin is no property of humanity at all, but only the
disordered state of our souls, as the fallen family of Adam; a disorder
affecting, indeed, and overspreading our entire nature, but still purely
and for sin--literally, "and about sin"; that is, "on the business of
sin." 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 the Margin) "by a sacrifice for sin"
(suggested by the language of
the Septuagint and approved by CALVIN, &c.);
for this sense is too
definite, and makes the idea of expiation more prominent than it is.
condemned sin--"condemned it to lose its power over men"
ALFORD]. In this glorious
sense our Lord says of His approaching death
"Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this
world be cast out," and again (see on
"When He (the Spirit) shall come, He shall convince the world of
. . . judgment, because the prince of this world is
judged," that is, condemned to let go his hold of men, who,
through the Cross, shall be emancipated into the liberty and power to
in the flesh--that is, in human nature, henceforth set free from the
grasp of sin.
4. That the righteousness of the law--"the righteous demand," "the
requirement" [ALFORD], Or "the precept" of the law; for it is not
precisely the word so often used in this Epistle to denote "the
righteousness which justifies"
(Ro 1:17; 3:21; 4:5, 6; 5:17, 18, 21),
but another form of the same word, intended to express the
enactment of the law, meaning here, we believe, the practical
obedience which the law calls for.
might be fulfilled in us--or, as we say, "realized in us."
who walk--the most ancient expression of the bent of one's life, whether in the direction of good or of evil
1Jo 1:6, 7).
not after--that is, according to the dictates of
the flesh, but after the spirit--From
it would seem that what is more immediately intended by "the spirit"
here is our own mind as renewed and actuated by the Holy
5. For they that are after the flesh--that is, under the influence
of the fleshly principle.
do mind--give their attention to
the things of the flesh, &c.--Men must be under the predominating
influence of one or other of these two principles, and, according as the
one or the other has the mastery, will be the complexion of their life,
the character of their actions.
6. For--a mere particle of transition here
[THOLUCK], like "but" or
to be carnally minded--literally, "the mind" or "minding of the flesh"
(Margin); that is, the pursuit of fleshly ends.
is death--not only "ends in" [ALFORD, &c.], but even now "is";
carrying death into its bosom, so that such are "dead while they live"
Eph 2:1, 5)
but to be spiritually minded--"the mind" or "minding of the spirit";
that is, the pursuit of spiritual objects.
is life and peace--not "life" only, in contrast with the "death" that
is in the other pursuit, but "peace"; it is the very element of the
soul's deepest repose and true bliss.
7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God--The desire and
pursuit of carnal ends is a state of enmity to God, wholly incompatible
with true life and peace in the soul.
for it is not subject--"doth not submit itself."
to the law of God, neither indeed can be--In such a state of mind
there neither is nor can be the least subjection to the law of God. Many
things may be done which the law requires, but nothing either is or can
be done because God's law requires it, or purely to please God.
8. So then--nearly equivalent to "And so."
they that are in--and, therefore, under the government of
the flesh cannot please God--having no obediential principle, no
desire to please Him.
9. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the
Spirit of God dwell in you--This does not mean, "if the disposition
or mind of God dwell in you"; but "if the Holy Ghost dwell in
1Co 6:11, 19; 3:16,
&c.). (It thus appears that to be "in the spirit" means here to be
under the dominion of our own renewed mind; because the
indwelling of God's Spirit is given as the evidence that we are "in the
if any man have not the Spirit of Christ--Again, this does not
mean "the disposition or mind of Christ," but the Holy
Ghost; here called "the Spirit of Christ," just as He is called "the
Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (see on
It is as "the Spirit of Christ" that the Holy Ghost takes possession of
believers, introducing into them all the gracious, dove-like
disposition which dwelt in Him
Now if any man's heart be void, not of such dispositions, but of the
blessed Author of them, "the Spirit of Christ."
he is none of his--even though intellectually convinced of the truth
of Christianity, and in a general sense influence by its spirit. Sharp,
solemn statement this!
10, 11. And if Christ be in you--by His indwelling Spirit in virtue of
which we have one life with him.
the body--"the body indeed."
is dead because of--"by reason of"
sin; but the spirit is life because--or, "by reason"
of righteousness--The word "indeed," which the original requires, is of
the nature of a concession--"I grant you that the body is dead . . . and
so far redemption is incomplete, but," &c.; that is, "If Christ be
in you by His indwelling Spirit, though your 'bodies' have to pass
through the stage of 'death' in consequence of the first Adam's 'sin,'
your spirit is instinct with new and undying 'life,' brought in by the
'righteousness' of the second Adam" [THOLUCK,
ALFORD in part,
but only HODGE entirely].
if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you--that
is, "If He dwell in you as the Spirit of the Christ-raising One,"
or, "in all the resurrection-power which He put forth in raising
he that raised up Christ from the dead--Observe the change of name
from Jesus, as the historical Individual whom God raised from the dead,
to CHRIST, the same Individual, considered as the Lord and Head of all
His members, or of redeemed Humanity [ALFORD].
shall also quicken--rather, "shall quicken even"
your mortal bodies by--the true reading appears to be "by reason of."
his Spirit that dwelleth in you--"Your bodies indeed are not exempt
from the death which sin brought in; but your spirits even now have in
them an undying life, and if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from
the dead dwell in you, even these bodies of yours, though they yield to
the last enemy and the dust of them return to the dust as it was, shall
yet experience the same resurrection as that of their living Head, in
virtue of the indwelling of same Spirit in you that quickened Him."
12, 13. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live
after the flesh--"Once we were sold under sin
but now that we have been set free from that hard master and become
servants to Righteousness
we owe nothing to the flesh, we disown its unrighteous claims and are
deaf to its imperious demands." Glorious sentiment!
13. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die--in the sense of
but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the
ye shall live--in the sense of
The apostle is not satisfied with assuring them that they are under no
obligations to the flesh, to hearken to its suggestions, without
reminding them where it will end if they do; and he uses the word
"mortify" (put to death) as a kind of play upon the word "die" just
before. "If ye do not kill sin, it will kill you." But he
tempers this by the bright alternative, that if they do, through the
Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, such a course will infallibly
terminate in "life" everlasting. And this leads the apostle into a new
line of thought, opening into his final subject, the "glory" awaiting
the justified believer.
Note, (1) "There can be no safety, no holiness, no happiness,
to those who are out of Christ: No "safety," because all such are under
the condemnation of the law
no holiness, because such only as are united to Christ have the
spirit of Christ
no happiness, because to be "carnally minded is death"
(2) The sanctification of believers, as it has its whole foundation in
the atoning death, so it has its living spring in the indwelling of the
Spirit of Christ
(3) "The bent of the thoughts, affections, and pursuits, is the only
decisive test of character
(4) No human refinement of the carnal mind will make it spiritual, or
compensate for the absence of spirituality. "Flesh" and "spirit" are
essentially and unchangeably opposed; nor can the carnal mind, as such,
be brought into real subjection to the law of God
Hence (5) the estrangement of God and the sinner is mutual. For as the
sinner's state of mind is "enmity against God"
so in this state he "cannot please God"
(6) Since the Holy Ghost is, in the same breath, called
indiscriminately "the Spirit of God," "the Spirit of Christ," and
"Christ" Himself (as an indwelling life in believers), the essential
unity and yet Personal distinctness of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost, m the one adorable Godhead must be believed, as the
only consistent explanation of such language
(7) The consciousness of spiritual life in our renewed souls is a
glorious assurance of resurrection life in the body also, in virtue of
the same quickening Spirit whose inhabitation we already enjoy
(8) Whatever professions of spiritual life men may make, it remains
eternally true that "if we live after the flesh we shall die," and only
"if we through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body we shall
Ga 6:7, 8;
Php 3:18, 19;
1Jo 3:7, 8).
SECOND: The Sonship of Believers--Their Future
Inheritance--The Intercession of the Spirit for Them
14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of
God, they, &c.--"these are sons of God." Hitherto the apostle has
spoken of the Spirit simply as a power through which believers
mortify sin: now he speaks of Him as a gracious, loving Guide, whose
"leading"--enjoyed by all in whom is the Spirit of God's dear Son--shows
that they also are "sons of God."
15. For, &c.--"For ye received not (at the time of your conversion)
the spirit of bondage," that is, "The spirit ye received was not a
spirit of bondage."
to fear--as under the law which "worketh wrath," that is, "Such was
your condition before ye believed, living in legal bondage, haunted with
incessant forebodings under a sense of unpardoned sin. But it was not to
perpetuate that wretched state that ye received the Spirit."
but ye have received--"ye received."
the spirit of adoption, whereby--rather, "wherein."
we cry, Abba, Father--The word "cry" is emphatic, expressing the
spontaneousness, the strength, and the exuberance of the final emotions.
this cry is said to proceed from the Spirit in us, drawing forth
the filial exclamation in our hearts. Here, it is said to proceed from
our own hearts under the vitalizing energy of the Spirit, as the
very element of the new life in believers (compare
Mt 10:19, 20;
and see on
"Abba" is the Syro-Chaldaic word for "Father"; and the
Greek word for that is added, not surely to tell the reader that
both mean the same thing, but for the same reason which drew both words
from the lips of Christ Himself during his agony in the garden
He, doubtless, loved to utter His Father's name in both the accustomed
forms; beginning with His cherished mother tongue, and adding that of
the learned. In this view the use of both words here has a charming
simplicity and warmth.
16. The Spirit itself--It should be "Himself" (see on
beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children--"are
of God--The testimony of our own spirit is borne in that cry of
conscious sonship, "Abba, Father"; but we are not therein alone; for
the Holy Ghost within us, yea, even in that very cry which it is His to
draw forth, sets His own distinct seal to ours; and thus, "in the mouth
of two witnesses" the thing is established. The apostle had before
called us "sons of God," referring to our adoption; here the
word changes to "children," referring to our new birth. The one
expresses the dignity to which we are admitted; the other the
new life which we receive. The latter is more suitable here;
because a son by adoption might not be heir of the property, whereas
a son by birth certainly is, and this is what the apostle is now
17. And if children, then heirs--"heirs also."
heirs of God--of our Father's kingdom.
and joint-heirs with Christ--as the "First-born among many brethren"
and as "Heir of all things"
if so be that we suffer--"provided we be suffering with Him."
that we may be also glorified together--with Him. This necessity of
conformity to Christ in suffering in order to participate in His glory,
is taught alike by Christ Himself and by His apostles
Mt 16:24, 25;
18. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not
worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us--that is, "True, we must suffer with Christ, if we would
partake of His
glory; but what of that? For if such sufferings are set over against the
coming glory, they sink into insignificance."
19-22. For, &c.--"The apostle, fired with the thought of the future
glory of the saints, pours forth this splendid passage, in which he
represents the whole creation groaning under its present degradation,
and looking and longing for the revelation of this glory as the end and
consummation of its existence" [HODGE].
the earnest expectation--(compare
of the creature--rather, "the creation."
waiteth for the manifestation--"is waiting for the revelation"
of the sons of God--that is, "for the redemption of their bodies"
from the grave
which will reveal their sonship, now hidden (compare
20. For the creature--"the creation."
was made subject to vanity, not willingly--that is, through no natural
principle of decay. The apostle, personifying creation, represents it
as only submitting to the vanity with which it was smitten, on man's
account, in obedience to that superior power which had mysteriously
linked its destinies with man's. And so he adds
but by reason of him who hath subjected the same--"who subjected
in hope--or "in hope that."
21. Because the creature itself also--"even the creation itself."
shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption--its bondage to
the principle of decay.
into the glorious liberty--rather, "the liberty of the glory."
of the children of God--that is, the creation itself shall, in a
glorious sense, be delivered into that freedom from debility and decay
in which the children of God, when raised up in glory, shall expatiate:
into this freedom from corruptibility the creation itself shall, in a
glorious sense, be delivered (So CALVIN,
22. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in
pain together until now--If for man's sake alone the earth was
cursed, it cannot surprise us that it should share in his recovery. And
if so, to represent it as sympathizing with man's miseries, and as
looking forward to his complete redemption as the period of its own
emancipation from its present sin-blighted condition, is a beautiful
thought, and in harmony with the general teaching of Scripture on the
subject. (See on
23. And not only they, but ourselves also--or "not only [so], but
even we ourselves"--that is, besides the inanimate creation.
which have the first-fruits of the Spirit--or, "the Spirit as the
first-fruits" of our full redemption (compare
moulding the heart to a heavenly frame and attempering it to its future
even we ourselves--though we have so much of heaven already within
groan within ourselves--under this "body of sin and death," and under
the manifold "vanity and vexation of spirit" that are written upon every
object and every pursuit and every enjoyment under the sun.
waiting for the--manifestation of our
adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body--from the grave: "not (be
it observed) the deliverance of ourselves from the body, but the
redemption of the body itself from the grave" [BENGEL].
24. For we are saved by hope--rather, "For in hope we are saved";
that is, it is more a salvation in hope than as yet in actual
but hope that is seen is not hope--for the very meaning of hope is,
the expectation that something now future will become present.
for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?--the latter ending
when the other comes.
25. But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait
for it--that is, then, patient waiting for it is our fitting attitude.
26, 27. Likewise the Spirit also, &c.--or, "But after the like manner
doth the Spirit also help.
our infirmities--rather (according to the true reading), "our
infirmity"; not merely the one infirmity here specified, but
the general weakness of the spiritual life in its present state, of
which one example is here given.
for we know not what we should pray for as we ought--It is not
the proper matter of prayer that believers are at so much loss
about, for the fullest directions are given them on this head: but to
ask for the right things "as they ought" is the difficulty. This arises
partly from the dimness of our spiritual vision in the present veiled
state, while we have to "walk by faith, not by sight" (see on
and the large admixture of the ideas and feelings which spring from the
fleeting objects of sense that there is in the very best views and
affections of our renewed nature; partly also from the necessary
imperfection of all human language as a vehicle for expressing the
subtle spiritual feelings of the heart. In these circumstances, how can
it be but that much uncertainty should surround all our spiritual
exercises, and that in our nearest approaches and in the freest
outpourings of our hearts to our Father in heaven, doubts should spring
up within us whether our frame of mind in such exercises is
altogether befitting and well pleasing to God? Nor do these anxieties
subside, but rather deepen, with the depth and ripeness of our
but the Spirit itself--rather, "Himself." (See end of
maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered--that
is, which cannot be expressed in articulate language. Sublime and
affecting ideas, for which we are indebted to this passage alone! "As we
struggle to express in articulate language the desires of our hearts and
find that our deepest emotions are the most inexpressible, we 'groan'
under this felt inability. But not in vain are these groanings. For
'the Spirit Himself' is in them, giving to the emotions which He Himself
has kindled the only language of which they are capable; so that though
on our part they are the fruit of impotence to utter what we feel, they
are at the same time the intercession of the Spirit Himself in our
27. And--rather, "But," inarticulate though these groanings be.
he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit,
because he--the Spirit
maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God--As
the Searcher of hearts, He watches the surging emotions of them in
prayer, and knows perfectly what the Spirit means by the groanings which
He draws forth within us, because that blessed Intercessor pleads by
them only for what God Himself designs to bestow.
Note, (1) Are believers "led by the Spirit of God"
How careful then should they be not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God"
Ps 32:8, 9:
"I will . . . guide thee with Mine eye. Be not
(then) as the horse, or as the mule," &c. (2) "The spirit of
bondage," to which many Protestants are "all their lifetime subject,"
and the "doubtsome faith" which the Popish Church systematically
inculcates, are both rebuked here, being in direct and painful contrast
to that "spirit of adoption," and that witness of the Spirit, along
with our own spirit, to the fact of our sonship, which it is here said
the children of God, as such, enjoy
(Ro 8:15, 16).
(3) As suffering with Christ is the ordained preparation for
participating in this glory, so the insignificance of the one as
compared with the other cannot fail to lighten the sense of it, however
bitter and protracted
(Ro 8:17, 18).
(4) It cannot but swell the heart of every intelligent Christian to
think that if external nature has been mysteriously affected for evil
by the fall of man, it only awaits his completed recovery, at the
resurrection, to experience a corresponding emancipation from its
blighted condition into undecaying life and unfading beauty
(5) It is not when believers, through sinful "quenching of the Spirit,"
have the fewest and faintest glimpses of heaven, that they sigh most
fervently to be there; but, on the contrary, when through the
unobstructed working of the Spirit in their hearts, "the first-fruits"
of the glory to be revealed are most largely and frequently tasted,
then, and just for that reason, is it that they "groan within
themselves" for full redemption
For thus they reason: If such be the drops, what will the ocean be? If
thus "to see through a glass darkly" be so very sweet, what will it be
to "see face to face?" If when "my Beloved stands behind our wall,
looking forth at the windows, showing Himself through the lattice"
--that thin veil which parts the seen from the unseen--if He is even
thus to me "Fairer than the children of men," what shall He be when He
stands confessed before my undazzled vision, the Only-begotten of the
Father in my own nature, and I shall be like Him, for I shall see Him
as He is? (6) "The patience of hope"
is the fitting attitude for those who with the joyful consciousness that
they are already "saved"
have yet the painful consciousness that they are saved but in
part: or, "that being justified by His grace, they are made (in the
present state) heirs according to the hope (only) of eternal life,"
(Ro 8:24, 25).
(7) As prayer is the breath of the spiritual life, and the believer's
only effectual relief under the "infirmity" which attaches to his whole
condition here below, how cheering is it to be assured that the blessed
Spirit, cognizant of it all, comes in aid of it all; and in particular,
that when believers, unable to articulate their case before God, can at
times do nothing but lie "groaning" before the Lord, these inarticulate
groanings are the Spirit's own vehicle for conveying into "the ears of
the Lord of Sabaoth" their whole case; and come up before the Hearer of
prayer as the Spirit's own intercession in their behalf, and that they
are recognized by Him that sitteth on the Throne, as embodying only
what His own "will" determined before to bestow upon them
(Ro 8:26, 27)!
(8) What a view do these two verses
(Ro 8:26, 27)
give of the relations subsisting between the Divine Persons in the
economy of redemption, and the harmony of their respective operations
in the case of each of the redeemed!
THIRD: Triumphant Summary of the Whole Argument
28. And--or, "Moreover," or "Now"; noting a transition to a new
we know, &c.--The order in the original is more striking: "We know
that to them that love God" (compare
Jas 1:12; 2:5)
"all things work together for good [even] to them who are the called
(rather, 'who are called') according to His (eternal) purpose."
Glorious assurance! And this, it seems, was a "household word," a
"known" thing, among believers. This working of all things for good is
done quite naturally to "them that love God," because such souls,
persuaded that He who gave His own Son for them cannot but mean them
well in all His procedure, learn thus to take in good part whatever He
sends them, however trying to flesh and blood: and to them who are the
called, according to "His purpose," all things do in the same
intelligible way "work together for good"; for, even when "He hath His
way in the whirlwind," they see "His chariot paved with love"
And knowing that it is in pursuance of an eternal "purpose" of
love that they have been "called into the fellowship of His Son
they naturally say within themselves, "It cannot be that He 'of whom,
and through whom, and to whom are all things,' should suffer that
purpose to be thwarted by anything really adverse to us, or that He
should not make all things, dark as well as light, crooked as well as
straight, to co-operate to the furtherance and final completion of His
29. For--as touching this "calling according to his purpose"
whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate--foreordain. In what
sense are we to take the word "foreknow" here? "Those who He foreknew
would repent and believe," say Pelagians of every age and every hue.
But this is to thrust into the text what is contrary to the whole
spirit, and even letter, of the apostle's teaching (see
and Ps 1:6,
God's "knowledge" of His people cannot be restricted to a mere
foresight of future events, or acquaintance with what is passing here
below. Does "whom He did foreknow," then, mean "whom He foreordained?"
Scarcely, because both "foreknowledge" and "foreordination" are here
mentioned, and the one as the cause of the other. It is
difficult indeed for our limited minds to distinguish them as states of
the Divine Mind towards men; especially since in
"the counsel" is put before "the foreknowledge of God," while in
"election" is said to be "according to the foreknowledge of
God." But probably God's foreknowledge of His own people means His
"peculiar, gracious, complacency in them," while His
"predestinating" or "foreordaining" them signifies His fixed
purpose, flowing from this, to "save them and call them with an
to be conformed to the image of his Son--that is, to be His sons
after the pattern, model, or image of His Sonship in our nature.
that he might be the first-born among many brethren--"The First-born,"
the Son by nature; His "many brethren," sons by adoption: He, in the
Humanity of the Only-begotten of the Father, bearing our sins on the
accursed tree; they in that of mere men ready to perish by reason of
sin, but redeemed by His blood from condemnation and wrath, and
transformed into His likeness: He "the First-born from the dead"; they
"that sleep in Jesus," to be in due time "brought with Him"; "The
First-born," now "crowned with glory and honor"; His "many brethren,"
"when He shall appear, to be like Him, for they shall see Him as He is."
30. Moreover--"And," or "Now"; explanatory of
--In "predestinating us to be conformed to the image of His Son" in
final glory, He settled all the successive steps of it. Thus
whom he did predestinate, them he also called--The word "called" (as
HODGE and others truly observe) is never in the Epistles of the New
Testament applied to those who have only the outward invitation of
the Gospel (as in
Mt 20:16; 22:14).
It always means "internally, effectually, savingly called." It
denotes the first great step in personal salvation and answers
to "conversion." Only the word conversion expresses the
change of character which then takes place, whereas this
"calling" expresses the divine authorship of the change, and the
sovereign power by which we are summoned, Matthew-like,
Zaccheus-like, out of our old, wretched, perishing condition, into a
new, safe, blessed life.
and whom he called--thus.
them he also justified--brought into the definite state of
reconciliation already so fully described.
and whom he justified, them he also glorified--brought to final glory
(Ro 8:17, 18).
Noble climax, and so rhythmically expressed! And all this is viewed as
past; because, starting from the past decree of "predestination to be
conformed to the image of God's Son" of which the other steps are but
the successive unfoldings--all is beheld as one entire, eternally
31. What shall we then say to these things?--"We can no farther go,
think, wish" [BENGEL].
This whole passage, to
and even to the end of the chapter, strikes all thoughtful interpreters
and readers, as transcending almost every thing in language, while
OLSHAUSEN notices the "profound and colossal"
character of the thought.
If God be for us, who can be against us?--If God be
resolved and engaged to bring us through, all our
enemies must be His; and "Who would set the briers and thorns
against Him in battle? He would go through them. He would burn them
What strong consolation is here! Nay, but the great Pledge of all has
already been given; for,
32. He--rather, "He surely." (It is a pity to lose the emphatic
particle of the original).
that spared not--"withheld not," "kept not back." This expressive
phrase, as well as the whole thought, is suggested by
where Jehovah's touching commendation of Abraham's conduct regarding
his son Isaac seems designed to furnish something like a glimpse into
the spirit of His own act in surrendering His own Son. "Take now
(said the Lord to Abraham) thy son, thine only, whom thou
lovest, and . . . offer him for a burnt offering"
and only when Abraham had all but performed that loftiest act of
self-sacrifice, the Lord interposed, saying, "Now I know that thou
fearest God, seeing thou HAST NOT WITHHELD THY SON, THINE
ONLY SON, from Me." In the light of this incident, then, and of
this language, our apostle can mean to convey nothing less than this,
that in "not sparing His own Son, but delivering Him up," or
surrendering Him, God exercised, in His Paternal character, a
mysterious act of Self-sacrifice, which, though involving none
of the pain and none of the loss which are inseparable
from the very idea of self-sacrifice on our part, was not less real,
but, on the contrary, as far transcended any such acts of ours as His
nature is above the creature's. But this is inconceivable if Christ be
not God's "own (or proper) Son," partaker of His very nature, as really
as Isaac was of his father Abraham's. In that sense, certainly, the
Jews charged our Lord with making Himself "equal with God" (see on
which He in reply forthwith proceeded, not to disown, but to illustrate
and confirm. Understand Christ's Sonship thus, and the language of
Scripture regarding it is intelligible and harmonious; but take it to
be an artificial relationship, ascribed to Him in virtue either
of His miraculous birth, or His resurrection from the dead, or the
grandeur of His works, or all of these together--and the passages which
speak of it neither explain of themselves nor harmonize with each
delivered him up--not to death merely (as many take it), for
that is too narrow an idea here, but "surrendered Him" in the most
comprehensive sense; compare
"God so loved the world that He GAVE His
for us all--that is, for all believers alike; as nearly every good
interpreter admits must be the meaning here.
how shall he not--how can we conceive that He should not.
with him also--rather, "also with Him." (The word "also" is
often so placed in our version as to obscure the sense; see on
freely give us all things?--all other gifts being not only immeasurably
less than this Gift of gifts, but virtually included in it.
33, 34. Who shall lay anything to the charge of--or, "bring any charge
God's elect?--the first place in this Epistle where believers are
styled "the elect." In what sense this is meant will appear in next
34. yea rather, that is risen again--to make good the purposes of His
death. Here, as in some other cases, the apostle delightfully corrects
and see on
not meaning that the resurrection of Christ was of more saving value
than His death, but that having "put away sin by the sacrifice of
Himself"--which though precious to us was to Him of unmingled
bitterness--it was incomparably more delightful to think that He was
again alive, and living to see to the efficacy of His death in
who is even--"also"
at the right hand of God--The right hand of the king was anciently the
seat of honor (compare
and denoted participation in the royal power and glory
The classical writings contain similar allusions. Accordingly Christ's
sitting at the right hand of God--predicted in
and historically referred to in
Ac 2:33; 7:56;
--signifies the glory of the exalted Son of man, and the
power in the government of the world in which He participates.
Hence it is called "sitting on the right hand of Power"
and "sitting on the right hand of the Majesty on high"
who also maketh intercession for us--using all His boundless
interest with God in our behalf. This is the top of the climax. "His
Session at God's right hand denotes His power to save us; His
Intercession, His will to do it"
But how are we to conceive of this intercession? Not certainly as of
one pleading "on bended knees and with outstretched arms," to use the
expressive language of
But yet, neither is it merely a figurative intimation that the power of
Christ's redemption is continually operative
or merely to show the fervor and vehemence of His love for us
It cannot be taken to mean less than this: that the glorified Redeemer,
conscious of His claims, expressly signifies His will that the
efficacy of His death should be made good to the uttermost, and
signifies it in some such royal style as we find Him employing in that
wonderful Intercessory Prayer which He spoke as from within the
veil (see on
Joh 17:11, 12):
"Father, I WILL that they also whom Thou hast
given Me be with Me where I am" (see on
But in what form this will is expressed is as undiscoverable as
it is unimportant.
35, 36. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?--This does not
mean "our love to Christ," as if, Who shall hinder us from loving
Christ? but "Christ's love to us," as is clear from the closing words of
the chapter, which refer to the same subject. Nor would the other sense
harmonize with the scope of the chapter, which is to exhibit the ample
ground of the believer's confidence in Christ. "It is no ground of
confidence to assert, or even to feel, that we will never forsake
Christ; but it is the strongest ground of assurance to be convinced that
His love will never change" [HODGE].
shall tribulation, &c.--"None of these, nor all together, how
terrible soever to the flesh, are tokens of God's wrath, or the least
ground for doubt of His love. From whom could such a question come
better than from one who had himself for Christ's sake endured so much?
The apostle says not (remarks
nobly) "What," but "Who," just as if all creatures and all afflictions
were so many gladiators taking arms against the Christians
36. As it is written, For thy sake, &c.--
--quoted as descriptive of what God's faithful people may expect from
their enemies at any period when their hatred of righteousness
is roused, and there is nothing to restrain it (see
37. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through
him that loved us--not, "We are so far from being conquered by
them, that they do us much good" [HODGE]; for
though this be true, the word means simply, "We are pre-eminently
conquerors." See on
And so far are they from "separating us from Christ's love," that it is
just "through Him that loved us" that we are victorious over them.
38, 39. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels,
nor principalities, nor powers--whether good or bad. But as the bad
are not called "angels," or "principalities," or "powers," save with
some addition to show that such are meant
probably the good are meant here, but merely as the same apostle
supposes an angel from heaven to preach a false gospel. (So the best
nor things present, nor things to come--no condition of the present
life and none of the unknown possibilities of the life to come.
39. nor any other creature--rather, "created thing"--any other thing
in the whole created universe of God
shall be able to separate us, &c.--"All the terms here are to be
taken in their most general sense, and need no closer definition. The
indefinite expressions are meant to denote all that can be thought of,
and are only a rhetorical paraphrase of the conception of allness"
from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord--Thus does
this wonderful chapter, with which the argument of the Epistle properly
closes, leave us who are "justified by faith" in the arms of everlasting
Love, whence no hostile power or conceivable event can ever tear us.
"Behold what manner of love is this?" And "what manner of persons ought
we to be," who are thus "blessed with all spiritual blessings in
Note, (1) There is a glorious consistency between the eternal
purposes of God and the free agency of men, though the link of
connection is beyond human, perhaps created, apprehension
(2) How ennobling is the thought that the complicated movements of the
divine government of the world are all arranged in expressed
furtherance of the "good" of God's chosen
(3) To whatever conformity to the Son of God in dignity and glory,
believers are or shall hereafter be raised, it will be the joy of
everyone of them, as it is most fitting, "that in all things He should
have the pre-eminence"
(4) "As there is a beautiful harmony and necessary connection between
the several doctrines of grace, so must there be a like harmony in the
character of the Christian. He cannot experience the joy and confidence
flowing from his election without the humility which" the consideration
of its being gratuitous must produce; nor can he have the peace of one
who is justified without the holiness of one who is saved"
(Ro 8:29, 30)
[HODGE]. (5) However difficult it may be for
finite minds to comprehend the emotions of the Divine Mind, let us
never for a moment doubt that in "not sparing His own Son, but
delivering Him up for us all," God made a real sacrifice of all that
was dearest to His heart, and that in so doing He meant for ever to
assure His people that all other things which they need--inasmuch as
they are nothing to this stupendous gift, and indeed but the necessary
sequel of it--will in due time be forthcoming
(6) In return for such a sacrifice on God's part, what can be
considered too great on ours? (7) If there could be any doubt as to the
meaning of the all-important word "JUSTIFICATION"
in this Epistle--whether, as the Church of Rome teaches, and many
others affirm, it means "infusing righteousness into the unholy,
so as to make them righteous," or, according to Protestant
teaching, "absolving, acquitting, or pronouncing
righteous the guilty"
ought to set such doubt entirely at rest. For the apostle's question in
this verse is, "Who shall bring a charge against God's elect?"
In other words, "Who shall pronounce" or "hold them
guilty?" seeing that "God justifies" them: showing beyond
all doubt, that to "justify" was intended to express precisely the
opposite of "holding guilty"; and consequently (as CALVIN triumphantly argues) that it means "to absolve
from the charge of guilt." (8) If there could be any reasonable
doubt in what light the death of Christ is to be regarded in
ought to set that doubt entirely at rest. For there the apostle's
question is, Who shall "condemn" God's elect, since "Christ
died" for them; showing beyond all doubt (as PHILIPPI justly argues) that it was the expiatory
(character of that death which the apostle had in view). (9) What an
affecting view of the love of Christ does it give us to learn that His
greatest nearness to God and most powerful interest with
Him--as "seated on His right hand"--is employed in behalf of His people
(10) "The whole universe, with all that it contains, so far as it is
good, is the friend and ally of the Christian; and, so far as it is
evil, is more than a conquered foe"
(11) Are we who "have tasted that the Lord is gracious," both "kept by
the power of God through faith unto salvation"
and embraced in the arms of Invincible Love? Then surely, while
"building ourselves up on our most holy faith," and "praying in the
Holy Ghost," only the more should we feel constrained to "keep
ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord
Jesus Christ unto eternal life"
(Jude 20, 21).