John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
Verse 1. There is therefore now no condemnation - Either for things present or past. Now he comes to deliverance and liberty. The apostle here resumes the thread of his discourse, which was interrupted, Romans 7:7.
Verse 2. The law of the Spirit - That is, the gospel. Hath freed me from the law of sin and death - That is, the Mosaic dispensation.
Verse 3. For what the law - Of Moses. Could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh - Incapable of conquering our evil nature. If it could, God needed not to have sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh - We with our sinful flesh were devoted to death. But God sending his own Son, in the likeness of that flesh, though pure from sin, condemned that sin which was in our flesh; gave sentence, that sin should be destroyed, and the believer wholly delivered from it.
Verse 4. That the righteousness of the law - The holiness it required, described, Romans 8:11. Might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit - Who are guided in all our thoughts, words, and actions, not by corrupt nature, but by the Spirit of God. From this place St. Paul describes primarily the state of believers, and that of unbelievers only to illustrate this.
Verse 5. They that are after the flesh - Who remain under the guidance of corrupt nature. Mind the things of the flesh - Have their thoughts and affections fixed on such things as gratify corrupt nature; namely, on things visible and temporal; on things of the earth, on pleasure, (of sense or imagination,) praise, or riches. But they who are after the Spirit - Who are under his guidance. Mind the things of the Spirit - Think of, relish, love things invisible, eternal; the things which the Spirit hath revealed, which he works in us, moves us to, and promises to give us.
Verse 6. For to be carnally minded - That is, to mind the things of the flesh. Is death - The sure mark of spiritual death, and the way to death everlasting. But to be spiritually minded - That is, to mind the things of the Spirit. Is life - A sure mark of spiritual life, and the way to life everlasting. And attended with peace -The peace of God, which is the foretaste of life everlasting; and peace with God, opposite to the enmity mentioned in the next verse.
on the Whole Bible
Verse 7. Enmity against God - His existence, power, and providence.
Verse 8. They who are in the flesh - Under the government of it.
Verse 9. In the Spirit - Under his government. If any man have not the Spirit of Christ - Dwelling and governing in him. He is none of his - He is not a member of Christ; not a Christian; not in a state of salvation. A plain, express declaration, which admits of no exception. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!
Verse 10. Now if Christ be in you - Where the Spirit of Christ is, there is Christ. The body indeed is dead - Devoted to death. Because of sin - Heretofore committed. But the Spirit is life -Already truly alive. Because of righteousness - Now attained. From Romans 8:13, St. Paul, having finished what he had begun, Romans 6:1, describes purely the state of believers.
Verse 12. We are not debtors to the flesh - We ought not to follow it.
Verse 13. The deeds of the flesh - Not only evil actions, but evil desires, tempers, thoughts. If ye mortify - Kill, destroy these. Ye shall live - The life of faith more abundantly here, and hereafter the life of glory.
Verse 14. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God - In all the ways of righteousness. They are the sons of God - Here St. Paul enters upon the description of those blessings which he comprises, Romans 8:30, in the word glorified; though, indeed, he does not describe mere glory, but that which is still mingled with the cross. The sum is, through sufferings to glory.
Verse 15. For ye - Who are real Christians. Have not received the spirit of bondage - The Holy Ghost was not properly a spirit of bondage, even in the time of the Old Testament. Yet there was something of bondage remaining even in those who then had received the Spirit. Again - As the Jews did before. We - All and every believer. Cry - The word denotes a vehement speaking, with desire, confidence, constancy. Abba, Father - The latter word explains the former. By using both the Syriac and the Greek word, St. Paul seems to point out the joint cry both of the Jewish and gentile believers. The spirit of bondage here seems directly to mean, those operations of the Holy Spirit by which the soul, on its first conviction, feels itself in bondage to sin, to the world, to Satan, and obnoxious to the wrath of God. This, therefore, and the Spirit of adoption, are one and the same Spirit, only manifesting itself in various operations, according to the various circumstances of the persons.
Verse 16. The same Spirit beareth witness with our spirit - With the spirit of every true believer, by a testimony distinct from that of his own spirit, or the testimony of a good conscience. Happy they who enjoy this clear and constant.
Verse 17. Joint heirs - That we may know it is a great inheritance which God will give us for he hath given a great one to his Son. If we suffer with him - Willingly and cheerfully, for righteousness' sake. This is a new proposition, referring to what follows.
Verse 18. For I reckon - This verse gives the reason why he but now mentioned sufferings and glory. When that glory "shall be revealed in us," then the sons of God will be revealed also.
Verse 19. For the earnest expectation - The word denotes a lively hope of something drawing near, and a vehement longing after it. Of the creation - Of all visible creatures, believers excepted, who are spoken of apart; each kind, according as it is capable. All these have been sufferers through sin; and to all these (the finally impenitent excepted) shall refreshment redound from the glory of the children of God. Upright heathens are by no means to be excluded from this earnest expectation: nay, perhaps something of it may at some times be found even in the vainest of men; who (although in the hurry of life they mistake vanity for liberty, and partly stifle. partly dissemble, their groans, yet) in their sober, quiet, sleepless, afflicted hours, pour forth many sighs in the ear of God.
Verse 20. The creation was made subject to vanity - Abuse, misery, and corruption. By him who subjected it - Namely, God, Genesis 3:17; . Adam only made it liable to the sentence which God pronounced; yet not without hope.
Verse 21. The creation itself shall be delivered - Destruction is not deliverance: therefore whatsoever is destroyed, or ceases to be, is not delivered at all. Will, then, any part of the creation be destroyed? Into the glorious liberty - The excellent state wherein they were created.
Verse 22. For the whole creation groaneth together - With joint groans, as it were with one voice. And travaileth - Literally, is in the pains of childbirth, to be delivered of the burden of the curse. Until now - To this very hour; and so on till the time of deliverance.
Verse 23. And even we, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit -That is, the Spirit, who is the first-fruits of our inheritance. The adoption - Persons who had been privately adopted among the Romans were often brought forth into the forum, and there publicly owned as their sons by those who adopted them. So at the general resurrection, when the body itself is redeemed from death, the sons of God shall be publicly owned by him in the great assembly of men and angels. The redemption of our body - From corruption to glory and immortality.
Verse 24. For we are saved by hope - Our salvation is now only in hope. We do not yet possess this full salvation.
Verse 26. Likewise the Spirit - Nay, not only the universe, not only the children of God, but the Spirit of God also himself, as it were, groaneth, while he helpeth our infirmities, or weaknesses. Our understandings are weak, particularly in the things of God our desires are weak; our prayers are weak. We know not - Many times. What we should pray for - Much less are we able to pray for it as we ought: but the Spirit maketh intercession for us - In our hearts, even as Christ does in heaven. With groanings - The matter of which is from ourselves, but the Spirit forms them; and they are frequently inexpressible, even by the faithful themselves.
Verse 27. But he who searcheth the hearts - Wherein the Spirit dwells and intercedes. Knoweth - Though man cannot utter it. What is the mind of the Spirit, for he maketh intercession for the saints - Who are near to God. According to God - According to his will, as is worthy of God. and acceptable to him.
Verse 28. And we know - This in general; though we do not always know particularly what to pray for. That all things - Ease or pain, poverty or riches, and the ten thousand changes of life. Work together for good - Strongly and sweetly for spiritual and eternal good. To them that are called according to his purpose - His gracious design of saving a lost world by the death of his Son. This is a new proposition. St. Paul, being about to recapitulate the whole blessing contained in justification, (termed "glorification," Romans 8:30,) first goes back to the purpose or decree of God, which is frequently mentioned in holy writ. To explain this (nearly in the words of an eminent writer) a little more at large:-When a man has a work of time and importance before him, he pauses, consults, and contrives; and when he has laid a plan, resolves or decrees to proceed accordingly. Having observed this in ourselves, we are ready to apply it to God also; and he, in condescension to us has applied it to himself. The works of providence and redemption are vast and stupendous, and therefore we are apt to conceive of God as deliberating and consulting on them, and then decreeing to act according to "the counsel of his own will;" as if, long before the world was made, he had been concerting measures both as to the making and governing of it, and had then writ down his decrees, which altered not, any more than the laws of the Medes and Persians. Whereas, to take this consulting and decreeing in a literal sense, would be the same absurdity as to ascribe a real human body and human passions to the ever-blessed God. This is only a popular representation of his infallible knowledge and unchangeable wisdom; that is, he does all things as wisely as a man can possibly do, after the deepest consultation, and as steadily pursues the most proper method as one can do who has laid a scheme beforehand. But then, though the effects be such as would argue consultation and consequent decrees in man, yet what need of a moment's consultation in Him who sees all things at one view? Nor had God any more occasion to pause and deliberate, and lay down rules for his own conduct from all eternity, than he has now. What was there any fear of his mistaking afterwards, if he had not beforehand prepared decrees, to direct him what he was to do? Will any man say, he was wiser before the creation than since? or had he then more leisure, that he should take that opportunity to settle his affairs, and make rules (or himself, from which he was never to vary? He has doubtless the same wisdom and all other perfections at this day which he had from eternity; and is now as capable of making decrees, or rather has no more occasion for them now than formerly: his understanding being always equally clear and bright, his wisdom equally infallible.
Verse 29. Whom he foreknew, he also predestinated conformable to the image of his Son - Here the apostle declares who those are whom he foreknew and predestinated to glory; namely, those who are conformable to the image of his Son. This is the mark of those who are foreknown and will be glorified, 2 Timothy 2:19. Philippians 3:10,21.
Verse 30. Them he - In due time. Called - By his gospel and his Spirit. And whom he called - When obedient to the heavenly calling, Acts 26:19. He also justified - Forgave and accepted. And whom he justified -Provided they "continued in his goodness," Romans 11:22, he in the end glorified - St. Paul does not affirm, either here or in any other part of his writings. that precisely the same number of men are called, justified, and glorified. He does not deny that a believer may fall away and be cut off between his special calling and his glorification, Romans 11:22. Neither does he deny that many are called who never are justified. He only affirms that this is the method whereby God leads us step by step toward heaven. He glorified - He speaks as one looking back from the goal, upon the race of faith. Indeed grace, as it is glory begun, is both an earnest and a foretaste of eternal glory.
Verse 31. What shall we say then to these things - Related in the third, fifth, and eighth chapters? As if he had said, We cannot go, think, or wish anything farther. If God be for us - Here follow four periods, one general and three particular. Each begins with glorying in the grace of God, which is followed by a question suitable to it, challenging all opponents to all which, "I am persuaded," &c., is a general answer. The general period is, If God be for us, who can be against us? The first particular period, relating to the past time, is, He that spared not his own Son, how shall he not freely give us all things? The second, relating to the present, is, It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? The third, relating to the future, is, It is Christ that died - Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
Verse 32. He that - This period contains four sentences: He spared not his own Son; therefore he will freely give us all things. He delivered him up for us all; therefore, none can lay anything to our charge. Freely - For all that follows justification is a free gift also. All things - Needful or profitable for us.
Verse 33. God's elect - The above-cited author observes, that long before the coming of Christ the heathen world revolted from the true God, and were therefore reprobated, or rejected. But the nation of the Jews were chosen to be the people of God, and were therefore styled, "the children" or "sons of God," Deuteronomy 14:1; "holy people," Deuteronomy 7:6; ; "a chosen seed," Deuteronomy 4:37; "the elect," Isaiah 41:8,9; ; "the called of God," Isaiah 48:12. And these titles were given to all the nation of Israel, including both good and bad. Now the gospel having the most strict connexion with the Books of the Old Testament, where these phrases frequently occur; and our Lord and his apostles being native Jews, and beginning to preach in the land of Israel, the language in which they preached would of course abound with the phrases of the Jewish nation. And hence it is easy to see why such of them as would not receive him were styled reprobated. For they no longer continued to be the people of God; whereas this and those other honourable titles were continued to all such Jews as embraced Christianity. And the same appellations which once belonged to the Jewish nation were now given to the gentile Christians also together with which they were invested with all the privileges of "the chosen people of God;" and nothing could cut them off from these but their own wilful apostasy. It does not appear that even good men were ever termed God's elect till above two thousand years from the creation. God's electing or choosing the nation of Israel, and separating them from the other nations, who were sunk in idolatry and all wickedness, gave the first occasion to this sort of language. And as the separating the Christians from the Jews was a like event, no wonder it was expressed in like words and phrases only with this difference, the term elect was of old applied to all the members of the visible church; whereas in the New Testament it is applied only to the members of the invisible.
Verse 34. Yea rather, that is risen - Our faith should not stop at his death, but be exercised farther on his resurrection, kingdom, second coming. Who maketh intercession for us - Presenting there his obedience, his sufferings, his prayers, and our prayers sanctified through him.
Verse 35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ - Toward us? Shall affliction or distress - He proceeds in order, from less troubles to greater: can any of these separate us from his protection in it ; and, if he sees good, deliverance from it?
Verse 36. All the day - That is, every day, continually. We are accounted - By our enemies; by ourselves. Psalms 44:22.
Verse 37. We more than conquer - We are not only no losers, but abundant gainers, by all these trials. This period seems to describe the full assurance of hope.
Verse 38. I am persuaded - This is inferred from the thirty-fourth verse, in an admirable order:-
Neither death" shall hurt us; For "Christ is dead:" "Nor life;" 'is risen" Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers; nor things pre- sent, nor things to come;" "is at the right hand of God:" "Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature;" "maketh intercession for us."
Neither death - Terrible as it is to natural men; a violent death in particular, Romans 8:36. Nor life - With all the affliction and distress it can bring, Romans 8:35; or a long, easy life; or all living men. Nor angels - Whether good (if it were possible they should attempt it) or bad, with all their wisdom and strength. Nor principalities, nor powers - Not even those of the highest rank, or the most eminent power. Nor things present - Which may befal us during our pilgrimage; or the whole world, till it passeth away. Nor things to come - Which may occur either when our time on earth is past, or when time itself is at an end, as the final judgment, the general conflagration, the everlasting fire. Nor height, nor depth - The former sentence respected the differences of times; this, the differences of places. How many great and various things are contained in these words, we do not, need not, cannot know yet. The height - In St. Paul's sublime style, is put for heaven. The depth - For the great abyss: that is, neither the heights, I will not say of walls, mountains, seas, but, of heaven itself, can move us; nor the abyss itself, the very thought of which might astonish the boldest creature. Nor any creature - Nothing beneath the Almighty; visible enemies he does not even deign to name. Shall be able - Either by force, Romans 8:35; or by any legal claim, Romans 8:33, &c. To separate us from the love of God in Christ - Which will surely save, protect, deliver us who believe in, and through, and from, them all.