Romans 8:38
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(38) Neither death, nor life . . .—The enumeration that follows is intended to include (poetically rather than logically) every possible category of being, especially those unseen powers of evil against which the warfare of the Christian was more particularly directed.

Nor principalities.—Comp. Ephesians 6:12, “We wrestle . . . against principalities, against powers;” terms belonging to the Jewish enumeration of angels. The critical evidence is however absolutely decisive in separating “powers” from “principalities” in this instance and placing it after “things present, nor things to come.” It would be better therefore to take it in a wider sense: “Agencies of every kind, personal or impersonal.”

Romans

LOVE’S TRIUMPH

Romans 8:38 - Romans 8:39
.

These rapturous words are the climax of the Apostle’s long demonstration that the Gospel is the revelation of ‘the righteousness of God from faith to faith,’ and is thereby ‘the power of God unto salvation.’ What a contrast there is between the beginning and the end of his argument! It started with sombre, sad words about man’s sinfulness and aversion from the knowledge of God. It closes with this sunny outburst of triumph; like some stream rising among black and barren cliffs, or melancholy moorlands, and foaming through narrow rifts in gloomy ravines, it reaches at last fertile lands, and flows calm, the sunlight dancing on its broad surface, till it loses itself at last in the unfathomable ocean of the love of God.

We are told that the Biblical view of human nature is too dark. Well, the important question is not whether it is dark, but whether it is true. But, apart from that, the doctrine of Scripture about man’s moral condition is not dark, if you will take the whole of it together. Certainly, a part of it is very dark. The picture, for instance, of what men are, painted at the beginning of this Epistle, is shadowed like a canvas of Rembrandt’s. The Bible is ‘Nature’s sternest painter but her best.’ But to get the whole doctrine of Scripture on the subject, we have to take its confidence as to what men may become, as well as its portrait of what they are-and then who will say that the anthropology of Scripture is gloomy? To me it seems that the unrelieved blackness of the view which, because it admits no fall, can imagine no rise, which sees in all man’s sins and sorrows no token of the dominion of an alien power, and has, therefore, no reason to believe that they can be separated from humanity, is the true ‘Gospel of despair,’ and that the system which looks steadily at all the misery and all the wickedness, and calmly proposes to cast it all out, is really the only doctrine of human nature which throws any gleam of light on the darkness. Christianity begins indeed with, ‘There is none that doeth good, no, not one,’ but it ends with this victorious pæan of our text.

And what a majestic close it is to the great words that have gone before, fitly crowning even their lofty height! One might well shrink from presuming to take such words as a text, with any idea of exhausting or of enhancing them. My object is very much more humble. I simply wish to bring out the remarkable order, in which Paul here marshals, in his passionate, rhetorical amplification, all the enemies that can be supposed to seek to wrench us away from the love of God; and triumphs over them all. We shall best measure the fullness of the words by simply taking these clauses as they stand in the text.

I. The love of God is unaffected by the extremest changes of our condition.

The Apostle begins his fervid catalogue of vanquished foes by a pair of opposites which might seem to cover the whole ground-’neither death nor life.’ What more can be said? Surely, these two include everything. From one point of view they do. But yet, as we shall see, there is more to be said. And the special reason for beginning with this pair of possible enemies is probably to be found by remembering that they are a pair, that between them they do cover the whole ground and represent the extremes of change which can befall us. The one stands at the one pole, the other at the other. If these two stations, so far from each other, are equally near to God’s love, then no intermediate point can be far from it. If the most violent change which we can experience does not in the least matter to the grasp which the love of God has on us, or to the grasp which we may have on it, then no less violent a change can be of any consequence. It is the same thought in a somewhat modified form, as we find in another word of Paul’s, ‘Whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord.’ Our subordination to Him is the same, and our consecration should be the same, in all varieties of condition, even in that greatest of all variations. His love to us makes no account of that mightiest of changes. How should it be affected by slighter ones?

The distance of a star is measured by the apparent change in its position, as seen from different points of the earth’s surface or orbit. But this great Light stands steadfast in our heaven, nor moves a hair’s-breadth, nor pours a feebler ray on us, whether we look up to it from the midsummer day of busy life, or from the midwinter of death. These opposites are parted by a distance to which the millions of miles of the world’s path among the stars are but a point, and yet the love of God streams down on them alike.

Of course, the confidence in immortality is implied in this thought. Death does not, in the slightest degree, affect the essential vitality of the soul; so it does not, in the slightest degree, affect the outflow of God’s love to that soul. It is a change of condition and circumstance, and no more. He does not lose us in the dust of death. The withered leaves on the pathway are trampled into mud, and indistinguishable to human eyes; but He sees them even as when they hung green and sunlit on the mystic tree of life.

How beautifully this thought contrasts with the saddest aspect of the power of death in our human experience! He is Death the Separator, who unclasps our hands from the closest, dearest grasp, and divides asunder joints and marrow, and parts soul and body, and withdraws us from all our habitude and associations and occupations, and loosens every bond of society and concord, and hales us away into a lonely land. But there is one bond which his ‘abhorred shears’ cannot cut. Their edge is turned on it. One Hand holds us in a grasp which the fleshless fingers of Death in vain strive to loosen. The separator becomes the uniter; he rends us apart from the world that He may ‘bring us to God.’ The love filtered by drops on us in life is poured upon us in a flood in death; ‘for I am persuaded, that neither death nor life shall be able to separate us from the love of God.’

II. The love of God is undiverted from us by any other order of beings.

‘Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers,’ says Paul. Here we pass from conditions affecting ourselves to living beings beyond ourselves. Now, it is important for understanding the precise thought of the Apostle to observe that this expression, when used without any qualifying adjective, seems uniformly to mean good angels, the hierarchy of blessed spirits before the throne. So that there is no reference to ‘spiritual wickedness in high places’ striving to draw men away from God. The supposition which the Apostle makes is, indeed, an impossible one, that these ministering spirits, who are sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation, should so forget their mission and contradict their nature as to seek to bar us out from the love which it is their chiefest joy to bring to us. He knows it to be an impossible supposition, and its very impossibility gives energy to his conclusion, just as when in the same fashion he makes the other equally impossible supposition about an angel from heaven preaching another gospel than that which he had preached to them.

So we may turn the general thought of this second category of impotent efforts in two different ways, and suggest, first, that it implies the utter powerlessness of any third party in regard to the relations between our souls and God.

We alone have to do with Him alone. The awful fact of individuality, that solemn mystery of our personal being, has its most blessed or its most dread manifestation in our relation to God. There no other Being has any power. Counsel and stimulus, suggestion or temptation, instruction or lies, which may tend to lead us nearer to Him or away from Him, they may indeed give us; but after they have done their best or their worst, all depends on the personal act of our own innermost being. Man or angel can affect that, but from without. The old mystics called prayer ‘the flight of the lonely soul to the only God.’ It is the name for all religion. These two, God and the soul, have to ‘transact,’ as our Puritan forefathers used to say, as if there were no other beings in the universe but only they two. Angels and principalities and powers may stand beholding with sympathetic joy; they may minister blessing and guardianship in many ways; but the decisive act of union between God and the soul they can neither effect nor prevent.

And as for them, so for men around us; the limits of their power to harm us are soon set. They may shut us out from human love by calumnies, and dig deep gulfs of alienation between us and dear ones; they may hurt and annoy us in a thousand ways with slanderous tongues, and arrows dipped in poisonous hatred, but one thing they cannot do. They may build a wall around us, and imprison us from many a joy and many a fair prospect, but they cannot put a roof on it to keep out the sweet influences from above, or hinder us from looking up to the heavens. Nobody can come between us and God but ourselves.

Or, we may turn this general thought in another direction, and say, These blessed spirits around the throne do not absorb and intercept His love. They gather about its steps in their ‘solemn troops and sweet societies’; but close as are their ranks, and innumerable as is their multitude, they do not prevent that love from passing beyond them to us on the outskirts of the crowd. The planet nearest the sun is drenched and saturated with fiery brightness, but the rays from the centre of life pass on to each of the sister spheres in its turn, and travel away outwards to where the remotest of them all rolls in its far-off orbit, unknown for millenniums to dwellers closer to the sun, but through all the ages visited by warmth and light according to its needs. Like that poor, sickly woman who could lay her wasted fingers on the hem of Christ’s garment, notwithstanding the thronging multitude, we can reach our hands through all the crowd, or rather He reaches His strong hand to us and heals and blesses us. All the guests are fed full at that great table. One’s gain is not another’s loss. The multitudes sit on the green grass, and the last man of the last fifty gets as much as the first. ‘They did all eat, and were filled’; and more remains than fed them all. So all beings are ‘nourished from the King’s country,’ and none jostle others out of their share. This healing fountain is not exhausted of its curative power by the early comers. ‘I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.’ ‘Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.’

III. The love of God is raised above the power of time.

‘Nor things present, nor things to come,’ is the Apostle’s next class of powers impotent to disunite us from the love of God. The rhythmical arrangement of the text deserves to be noticed, as bearing not only on its music and rhetorical flow, but as affecting its force. We had first a pair of opposites, and then a triplet; ‘death and life: angels, principalities, and powers.’ We have again a pair of opposites; ‘things present, things to come,’ again followed by a triplet, ‘height nor depth, nor any other creature.’ The effect of this is to divide the whole into two, and to throw the first and second classes more closely together, as also the third and fourth. Time and Space, these two mysterious ideas, which work so fatally on all human love, are powerless here.

The great revelation of God, on which the whole of Judaism was built, was that made to Moses of the name ‘I Am that I Am.’ And parallel to the verbal revelation was the symbol of the Bush, burning and unconsumed, which is so often misunderstood. It appears wholly contrary to the usage of Scriptural visions, which are ever wont to express in material form the same truth which accompanies them in words, that the meaning of that vision should be, as it is frequently taken as being, the continuance of Israel unharmed by the fiery furnace of persecution. Not the continuance of Israel, but the eternity of Israel’s God is the teaching of that flaming wonder. The burning Bush and the Name of the Lord proclaimed the same great truth of self-derived, self-determined, timeless, undecaying Being. And what better symbol than the bush burning, and yet not burning out, could be found of that God in whose life there is no tendency to death, whose work digs no pit of weariness into which it falls, who gives and is none the poorer, who fears no exhaustion in His spending, no extinction in His continual shining?

And this eternity of Being is no mere metaphysical abstraction. It is eternity of love, for God is love. That great stream, the pouring out of His own very inmost Being, knows no pause, nor does the deep fountain from which it flows ever sink one hair’s-breadth in its pure basin.

We know of earthly loves which cannot die. They have entered so deeply into the very fabric of the soul, that like some cloth dyed in grain, as long as two threads hold together they will retain the tint. We have to thank God for such instances of love stronger than death, which make it easier for us to believe in the unchanging duration of His. But we know, too, of love that can change, and we know that all love must part. Few of us have reached middle life, who do not, looking back, see our track strewed with the gaunt skeletons of dead friendships, and dotted with ‘oaks of weeping,’ waving green and mournful over graves, and saddened by footprints striking away from the line of march, and leaving us the more solitary for their departure.

How blessed then to know of a love which cannot change or die! The past, the present, and the future are all the same to Him, to whom ‘a thousand years,’ that can corrode so much of earthly love, are in their power to change ‘as one day,’ and ‘one day,’ which can hold so few of the expressions of our love, may be ‘as a thousand years’ in the multitude and richness of the gifts which it can be expanded to contain. The whole of what He has been to any past, He is to us to-day. ‘The God of Jacob is our refuge.’ All these old-world stories of loving care and guidance may be repeated in our lives.

So we may bring the blessedness of all the past into the present, and calmly face the misty future, sure that it cannot rob us of His love.

Whatever may drop out of our vainly-clasping hands, it matters not, if only our hearts are stayed on His love, which neither things present nor things to come can alter or remove. Looking on all the flow of ceaseless change, the waste and fading, the alienation and cooling, the decrepitude and decay of earthly affection, we can lift up with gladness, heightened by the contrast, the triumphant song of the ancient Church: ‘Give thanks unto the Lord: for He is good: because His mercy endureth for ever!’

IV. The love of God is present everywhere.

The Apostle ends his catalogue with a singular trio of antagonists; ‘nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature,’ as if he had got impatient of the enumeration of impotencies, and having named the outside boundaries in space of the created universe, flings, as it were, with one rapid toss, into that large room the whole that it can contain, and triumphs over it all.

As the former clause proclaimed the powerlessness of Time, so this proclaims the powerlessness of that other great mystery of creatural life which we call Space, Height or depth, it matters not. That diffusive love diffuses itself equally in all directions. Up or down, it is all the same. The distance from the centre is the same to Zenith or to Nadir.

Here, we have the same process applied to that idea of Omnipresence as was applied in the former clause to the idea of Eternity. That thought, so hard to grasp with vividness, and not altogether a glad one to a sinful soul, is all softened and glorified, as some solemn Alpine cliff of bare rock is when the tender morning light glows on it, when it is thought of as the Omnipresence of Love. ‘Thou, God, seest me,’ may be a stern word, if the God who sees be but a mighty Maker or a righteous Judge. As reasonably might we expect a prisoner in his solitary cell to be glad when he thinks that the jailer’s eye is on him from some unseen spy-hole in the wall, as expect any thought of God but one to make a man read that grand one hundred and thirty-ninth Psalm with joy: ‘If I ascend into heaven, Thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there.’ So may a man say shudderingly to himself, and tremble as he asks in vain, ‘Whither shall I flee from Thy Presence?’ But how different it all is when we can cast over the marble whiteness of that solemn thought the warm hue of life, and change the form of our words into this of our text: ‘Nor height, nor depth, shall be able to separate us from the love of God.’

In that great ocean of the divine love we live and move and have our being, floating in it like some sea flower which spreads its filmy beauty and waves its long tresses in the depths of mid-ocean. The sound of its waters is ever in our ears, and above, beneath, around us, its mighty currents run evermore. We need not cower before the fixed gaze of some stony god, looking on us unmoved like those Egyptian deities that sit pitiless with idle hands on their laps, and wide-open lidless eyes gazing out across the sands. We need not fear the Omnipresence of Love, nor the Omniscience which knows us altogether, and loves us even as it knows. Rather we shall be glad that we are ever in His Presence, and desire, as the height of all felicity and the power for all goodness, to walk all the day long in the light of His countenance, till the day come when we shall receive the crown of our perfecting in that we shall be ‘ever with the Lord.’

The recognition of this triumphant sovereignty of love over all these real and supposed antagonists makes us, too, lords over them, and delivers us from the temptations which some of them present us to separate ourselves from the love of God. They all become our servants and helpers, uniting us to that love. So we are set free from the dread of death and from the distractions incident to life. So we are delivered from superstitious dread of an unseen world, and from craven fear of men. So we are emancipated from absorption in the present and from careful thought for the future. So we are at home everywhere, and every corner of the universe is to us one of the many mansions of our Father’s house. ‘All things are yours, . . . and ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.’

I do not forget the closing words of this great text. I have not ventured to include them in our present subject, because they would have introduced another wide region of thought to be laid down on our already too narrow canvas.

But remember, I beseech you, that this love of God is explained by our Apostle to be ‘in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Love illimitable, all-pervasive, eternal; yes, but a love which has a channel and a course; love which has a method and a process by which it pours itself over the world. It is not, as some representations would make it, a vague, nebulous light diffused through space as in a chaotic half-made universe, but all gathered in that great Light which rules the day-even in Him who said: ‘I am the Light of the world.’ In Christ the love of God is all centred and embodied, that it may be imparted to all sinful and hungry hearts, even as burning coals are gathered on a hearth that they may give warmth to all that are in the house. ‘God so loved the world’-not merely so much, but in such a fashion-’that’-that what? Many people would leap at once from the first to the last clause of the verse, and regard eternal life for all and sundry as the only adequate expression of the universal love of God. Not so does Christ speak. Between that universal love and its ultimate purpose and desire for every man He inserts two conditions, one on God’s part, one on man’s. God’s love reaches its end, namely, the bestowal of eternal life, by means of a divine act and a human response. ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ So all the universal love of God for you and me and for all our brethren is ‘in Christ Jesus our Lord,’ and faith in Him unites us to it by bonds which no foe can break, no shock of change can snap, no time can rot, no distance can stretch to breaking. ‘For I am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’Romans 8:38-39. For I am persuaded, &c. — This period describes the full assurance of hope, and the inference is made in admirable order; neither death — Terrible as it is to natural men, a violent death in particular; nor the fear of it, Romans 8:36; nor life — With all the affliction and distress it can bring, Romans 8:35; or a long, easy life, and the love of it; or all living men; nor angels — Whether good (if it were possible they should attempt it) or bad, with all their subtlety and strength: nor principalities, nor powers — Not even those of the highest rank, or of the most eminent power. “Because angels are distinguished from principalities and powers, Beza and some others are of opinion that powers in this passage, as Luke 12:11, signify the persecuting rulers and potentates of the earth, who endeavoured to make the first Christians renounce their faith. But as evil angels, in other passages of Scripture, are called principalities and powers, and as the apostle rises in his description, it is probable that he speaks of these malicious spirits, the inveterate enemies of mankind; and that he calls them principalities and powers, by a metonymy of the office, or power possessed, for the persons possessing it.” — Macknight. Nor things present — Difficult as they are, or such as may befall us during our pilgrimage, or till the world passeth away; nor things to come — Extreme as they may prove; that is, future sufferings, or things 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. The apostle does not mention things past, because they have no influence on the mind, unless so far as the like things are either hoped or feared. Nor height, nor depth — The former sentence respected the differences of times; this respects 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, waves of the sea, but of heaven itself, can move us; nor the abyss itself, the very thought of which might astonish the boldest creature. Or his meaning may be, Neither the height of prosperity, nor the depth of adversity can move us. Nor any other creature — Above or beneath, in heaven, earth, or hell: nothing beneath the Almighty. In this general clause the apostle includes whatever else could be named, as having any influence to separate believers from the love of God, exercised toward them through Christ: 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, and deliver us, who believe, and persevere so to do, in and through, and from them all. 8:32-39 All things whatever, in heaven and earth, are not so great a display of God's free love, as the gift of his coequal Son to be the atonement on the cross for the sin of man; and all the rest follows upon union with him, and interest in him. All things, all which can be the causes or means of any real good to the faithful Christian. He that has prepared a crown and a kingdom for us, will give us what we need in the way to it. Men may justify themselves, though the accusations are in full force against them; but if God justifies, that answers all. By Christ we are thus secured. By the merit of his death he paid our debt. Yea, rather that is risen again. This is convincing evidence that Divine justice was satisfied. We have such a Friend at the right hand of God; all power is given to him. He is there, making intercession. Believer! does your soul say within you, Oh that he were mine! and oh that I were his; that I could please him and live to him! Then do not toss your spirit and perplex your thoughts in fruitless, endless doubtings, but as you are convinced of ungodliness, believe on Him who justifies the ungodly. You are condemned, yet Christ is dead and risen. Flee to Him as such. God having manifested his love in giving his own Son for us, can we think that any thing should turn aside or do away that love? Troubles neither cause nor show any abatement of his love. Whatever believers may be separated from, enough remains. None can take Christ from the believer: none can take the believer from Him; and that is enough. All other hazards signify nothing. Alas, poor sinners! though you abound with the possessions of this world, what vain things are they! Can you say of any of them, Who shall separate us? You may be removed from pleasant dwellings, and friends, and estates. You may even live to see and seek your parting. At last you must part, for you must die. Then farewell, all this world accounts most valuable. And what hast thou left, poor soul, who hast not Christ, but that which thou wouldest gladly part with, and canst not; the condemning guilt of all thy sins! But the soul that is in Christ, when other things are pulled away, cleaves to Christ, and these separations pain him not. Yea, when death comes, that breaks all other unions, even that of the soul and body, it carries the believer's soul into the nearest union with its beloved Lord Jesus, and the full enjoyment of him for ever.For I am persuaded - I have a strong and unwavering confidence. Latin Vulgate, "I am certain." The expression here implies unwavering certainty.

Neither death - Neither the fear of death, nor all the pains and tortures of the dying scene, even in the most painful trials of persecution; death in no form.

Nor life - Nor the hope of life; the love of life; the offer of life made to us by our persecutors, on condition of abjuring our Christian faith. The words evidently refer to times of persecution; and it was not uncommon for persecutors to offer life to Christians, on condition of their renouncing attachment to the Saviour, and offering sacrifice to idols. All that was demanded in the times of persecution under the Roman emperors was, that they should throw a few grains of incense on the altar of a pagan god, as expressive of homage to the idol. But even this they would not do. The hope of life on so very easy terms would not, could not alienate them from the love of Christ.

Nor angels - It seems to be apparent that "good angels" cannot be intended here. The apostle was saying that nothing would separate Christians from the love of Christ. Of course, it would be implied that the things which he specifies might be supposed to have some power or tendency to do it. But it is not conceivable that good angels, who are "sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" Hebrews 1:14, should seek to alienate the minds of Christians from the Saviour, or that their influence should have any such tendency. It seems to be clear, therefore, that he refers to the designs and temptations of evil spirits. The word "angels" is applied to evil spirits in Matthew 25:41; 1 Corinthians 6:3.

Nor principalities - (ἀρχαὶ archai). This word usually refers to magistrates and civil rulers. But it is also applied to evil angels, as having dominion over people; Ephesians 6:12, "For we wrestle against ...principalities;" Colossians 2:15, "And having spoiled principalities:" 1 Corinthians 15:24, "When he shall have put down all rule;" Greek, ἀρχήν archēn. Some have supposed that it refers here to magistrates and those in authority who persecuted Christians; but the connection of the word with angels seems to require us to understand it of evil spirits.

Nor powers - This word δυνάμεις dunameis is often applied to magistrates; but it is also applied to evil spirits that have dominion over men; 1 Corinthians 15:24. The ancient Rabbis also give the name powers to evil angels. (Schleusner.) There can be no doubt that the Jews were accustomed to divide the angels of heaven into various ranks and orders, traces of which custom we find often in the Scriptures. And there is also reason to suppose that they made such a division with reference to evil angels, regarding Satan as their leader, and other evil spirits, divided into various ranks, as subordinate to him; see Matthew 25:41; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15. To such a division there is probably reference here; and the meaning is, that no order of evil angels, however powerful, artful, or numerous, would be able to alienate the hearts of Christians from their Redeemer.

Nor things present - Calamities and persecutions to which we are now subject.

Nor things to come - Trials to which we may be yet exposed. It evinced strong confidence to say that no possible trials should be sufficient to destroy their love for Christ.

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 (Mt 25:41; Col 2:15; Eph 6:12; 2Pe 2:4—except perhaps 1Co 6:3), probably the good are meant here, but merely as the same apostle supposes an angel from heaven to preach a false gospel. (So the best interpreters).

nor things present, nor things to come—no condition of the present life and none of the unknown possibilities of the life to come.

For I am persuaded; or, I am fully assured, not by any special revelation, but by the same spirit of faith, which is common to all believers, 2 Corinthians 4:13.

Neither death, nor life; i.e. neither fear of death, nor hope of life.

Nor angels.

1. The evil angels; for the good angels would not attempt the separating us from the love of Christ.

2. There are some, that think the good angels to be also here intended; and they understand it by way of supposition: q.d.

If they should endeavour such a thing, they would never effect it: and thus they make the apostle here to argue, as he doth in another place, Galatians 1:8.

Nor principalities, nor powers; some would have the evil angels to be here intended, and the good angels in what went before; in Colossians 2:15, they are thus termed: but others, by principalities and powers, do rather understand persecuting princes and potentates.

Nor things present, nor things to come; i.e. the evils and pressures that are upon us now, or that shall be upon us hereafter. He makes no mention of the things past, for they are overcome already. For I am persuaded,.... These words with the following, express the strong persuasion, and full assurance of faith the apostle had, that nothing whatever could separate him and the rest of God's people, from his love towards them in Christ Jesus. This persuasion not only regards himself, but others; and is not conjectural, but certain; and which did not arise from any special and extraordinary revelation, but is founded upon the nature of the love of God itself, the security of it in Christ, and of the persons of God's elect in him; upon eternal predestination, and the unalterable purposes of God; upon the promise and oath of God; upon adoption, and the gracious witnessings, assistances, and inhabitation of the Spirit; and is greatly increased by the consideration of the death, resurrection, and intercession of Christ. The things enumerated, which are not able to separate from the love of God, are as follow:

death; death separates men from the world, their worldly habitations and substance; it separates the soul from the body, and one friend from another; and in process of time, may take off all thoughts and affections for departed friends, but it is not able to separate from the love of God; it is so far from it, that it lets the soul into the fullest enjoyment of it: and as corporeal death, so no other kind of death can do it; for if the death of the body cannot, the death of afflictions never can; and as for a moral or spiritual death, and an eternal one, these shall never befall the children of God:

nor life; this natural and temporal life, which is frail and mortal; the love of God is better than this life, and this itself is the effect of divine favour; wherefore this can never separate from the love of God, nor anything in it: the life of believers is indeed filled up with troubles and exercises, and attended with much imperfection and sin; but nothing does, or can alienate the affections of God from his children; for though he exercises them with the trials of life, and chastises them for their sins, yet his loving kindness be does not take away from them:

nor angels; by whom are meant evil angels, the devils; for as for good angels, they never attempt to separate God and his people; they rejoice at their good, minister to them, are their guardians whilst here, at death they carry their souls to heaven, and at the last day will gather all the elect together; but evil angels do endeavour it, by temptations to sin, and accusations for it; by stirring up heresies and persecutions, in order to destroy them, but cannot succeed; for the saints are upon God's heart, are in Christ's hands, and on him the rock; and the Spirit of God is in them, who is greater than he that is in the world:

nor principalities: civil magistrates; who though they may separate them from their company, and cast them out as evil; may separate them in prisons one from another; and separate soul and body, by killing the latter, which is all they can do; yet they cannot separate neither soul nor body from the love of God: the Jews often say, that if all the nations of the world were gathered together, they could not extinguish (n) or cause to cease (o), or take away the love which is between God and his people Israel (p):

nor powers; either the same with the former; or false teachers who had the power of working miracles in confirmation of their doctrines, by which they deceived many; and if it had been possible, would have deceived the elect of God, but that was impossible:

nor things present; present evils, the afflictions of the present life; God does not cease to love when he afflicts his people; yea, afflictions spring from his love, and in them he afresh manifests his love to them; they are overruled for their good, and issue in eternal glory. Present temptations also may be meant. The best of saints have been exposed unto them; Christ himself was not exempted from them; these do not, nor cannot separate from the love of God; which is manifest from the regard which God and Christ have to tempted ones, by sympathizing with them, supporting and succouring of them, rebuking the tempter, and delivering from them. Present desertions, or the hidings of God's face, which often is the case of his dear children, can have no such effect; their relation to God still continues; they have great nearness unto him, are engraven on the palms of his hands, are set as a seal on his heart, and he bears a strong affection to them; though, for wise reasons, he is pleased for a moment to hide himself from them: yea, the present body of sin and death saints carry about with them in this life, cannot separate them; sin has separated the angels from God, who rebelled against him; it drove Adam out of the garden of Eden, and will exclude the wicked from the divine presence to all eternity; and it often separates between God and his own people, with respect to communion, but never with respect to union to him, or interest in him; for he knew what they would be when he set his love upon them; his love broke through all the corruptions of nature and sins of life in their conversion; and appears to continue the same from the strong expressions of his grace to them, notwithstanding all their backslidings; could sin separate in this sense, no one would remain the object of his love. Now this does not suppose that God loves sin, nor does it give any encouragement to it; for though it cannot separate from interest in God, yet it does from the enjoyment of him. Again, present good things may be designed, the good things of this life, temporal enjoyments; these are given in love; and though they may be but few, they are in mercy, and with a blessing; and the great mercy of all is, that these are not their all, nor do they take off their value and esteem for the love of God, which is better to them than all the things of life; and though "the prosperity of fools shall destroy them", Proverbs 1:32, the prosperity of the saints shall never be their ruin:

nor things to come; whether good or bad, prosperous or adverse; more afflictions, fresh difficulties with the body of sin; an hour of temptation, and time of distress that is to come upon all the earth; or the evil days of old age; God will never leave, nor forsake his people, or cause his loving kindness to depart from them, in whatsoever state or condition they may come into: the Vulgate Latin version adds, "nor fortitude"; and the Ethiopic version, "nor powers"; and one copy adds it in the beginning of Romans 8:39, "nor power".

(n) Targum in Cant. viii. 7. (o) Shemot Rabba, sect. 49. fol. 144. 1.((p) Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 179. 4.

For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 8:38-39. Paul now confirms what he had said in Romans 8:37 by the enthusiastic declaration of his conviction that no power, in whatever shape it may exist or be conceived of, etc. For the singular πέπεισμαι there is as little necessity for seeking a special reason (Hofmann, e.g., thinks that Paul wished to justify the confidence, with which he had expressed Romans 8:37) as in the case of λογίζομαι in Romans 8:18, especially as Romans 8:37 contains only the simple assertion of a state of fact, and not a how of that assertion.

The following expressions (θάνατος κ.τ.λ.) are to be left in the generality of their sense, which is, partly in itself and partly through the connection, beyond doubt; every arbitrary limitation is purely opposed to the purpose of declaring everything—everything possible—incapable of separating the believers from the love of God in Christ. Hence: οὔτε θάνατος οὔτε ζωή: neither death nor life, as the two most general states, in which man can be. We may die or live: we remain in the love of God. The mention of death first was occasioned very naturally by Romans 8:36. It is otherwise in 1 Corinthians 3:22. Grotius (following Chrysostom and Jerome, ad Aglas. 9) imports the idea: “metus mortis; spes vitae,” which Philippi also regards as a “correct paraphrase of the sense.”

οὔτε ἄγγελοι οὔτε ἀρχαί] Neither angels (generally) nor (angelic) powers (in particular). ἄγγ. is, with Chrysostom, Theophylact, Beza, Tholuck, Philippi, Fritzsche, Hofmann, and others, to be understood of good angels, because the wicked are never termed ἄγγελοι without some defining adjunct (Matthew 25:41; 2 Corinthians 12:7; 2 Peter 2:4; comp. Judges 1:6). The objection repeated by Reiche (who, with Clemens Alexandrinus, Toletus, Grotius, Estius, and others, understands it of wicked angels), that an attempt on the part of the good angels to separate Christians from God is inconceivable, does not hold, since, according to Galatians 1:8, the case of such an attempt falling within the sphere of possibility could certainly be—not believed, but—conceived ex hypothesi by Paul. Theophylact already aptly says: οὐχ ὡς τῶν ἀγγέλων ἀφιστώντων τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ, ἀλλὰ καθʼ ὑπόθεσιν τὸν λόγον τιθείς. Against the view that ἄγγ. denotes good and wicked angels (Wolf, Bengel, Koppe, and van Hengel), the linguistic usage is likewise decisive, since according to it the absolute ἀγγ. signifies nothing else than simply good angels. Comp. on 1 Corinthians 4:9.

ἀρχαί] obtains, through its connection with ἀγγ., its definite reference to particular powers in the category of angels—those invested with power in the angelic world. Paul recognises a diversity of rank and power in the angelic hierarchy (of the good and the wicked), and finds occasion, especially in his later epistles, to mention it (Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15); without, however (comp. on Ephesians 1:21), betraying any participation in the fluctuating definitions of the later Jews. See, respecting these definitions, Bartolocci, Bibl. rabb. I. p. 267 ff.; Eisenmenger, entdecktes Judenthum, II. p. 370 ff. Olearius, Wetstein, Loesner, Morus, Rosenmüller, Flatt, and Weiss, bibl. Theol. p. 460, refer ἀρχ. to human ruling powers; van Hengel to “principatus quoslibet.” Against these its connection with ἀγγ. is decisive, because no contrast is suggested of non-angelic powers. Just as little, because without any trace in the text, are we to understand with Hofmann the ἈΡΧΑΊ, in contrast to the good God-serving ἌΓΓΕΛΟΙ, as spirits “that in self-will exercise a dominion, with which they do not live to the service of God,” i.e. as evil spirits.

οὔτε ἐνεστῶτα οὔτε μέλλοντα] neither that which has set in nor that which is future. Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:22. Quite general, and not to be limited to sufferings (Vatablus, Grotius, Flatt, and others). ἐνεστ., however, does not absolutely coincide with the idea things present (as it is usually taken), which is in itself linguistically possible, but is never the case in the N. T. (see on Galatians 1:4); but it denotes rather what is in the act of having set in, has already begun (and μελλ. that, the emergence of which is still future). So, according to Galatians 1:4; 1 Corinthians 3:22; 1 Corinthians 7:26; 2 Thessalonians 2:2. Aptly rendered by the Vulgate: “instantia.” Comp. Lucretius, i. 461: “quae res instet, quid porro deinde sequatur.”

οὔτε δυνάμεις] nor powers; to be left in its utmost generality, personal and impersonal (Hofmann arbitrarily limiting it to the latter). The common interpretation, angelic powers, would be correct, if its position after ἀρχαί were right; but see the crit. remarks. The incongruity of the apparent isolation of this link vanishes on observing that Paul, in his enumeration, twice arranges the elements in pairs (θάνατοςἀρχαι), and then twice again in threes (viz. οὔτε ἐνεστ. οὔτε μέλλ. οὔτε δυνάμ., and ΟὔΤΕ ὝΨΩΜΑ ΟὔΤΕ ΒΆΘΟς ΟὔΤΕ ΤΊς ΚΤΊΣΙς ἙΤΈΡΑ), and the latter indeed in such a way, that to the two that stand contrasted he adds a third of a general character.

ΟὔΤΕ ὝΨΩΜΑ ΟὔΤΕ ΒΆΘΟς] neither height nor depth; likewise without any alteration or limitation of the quite general sense of the words. No dimension of space can separate us, etc. Arbitrary definitions are given: heaven and hell or the nether world (Theodoret, Bengel, Wetstein, Michaelis, Klee, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald, and Hofmann); heaven and earth (Fritzsche; comp. Theophylact, Morus, and Flatt); the height of bliss and the depth of misery (Koppe); spes honorum and metus ignominiae (Grotius, Rosenmüller); sapientia haereticorum and communes vulgi errores (Melancthon); neque altitudo, ex qua quis minaretur praecipitium, neque profundum, in quo aliquis minaretur demersionem (Thomas Aquinas, Anselm, Estius).

οὔτε τίς κτίσις ἑτέρα] nor any other created thing whatever, covers all not yet embraced in the foregoing elements; and thus the idea of “nothing in the world in the shape of a creature” is fully exhausted. The attempt to bring the collective elements named in their consecutive order under definite logical categories leads to artificialities of exposition, which ought not to be applied to such enthusiastic outbursts of the moment.

Instead of τῆς ἀγ. τοῦ Χριστοῦ (Romans 8:35), Paul now says, Τῆς ἈΓ. ΤΟῦ ΘΕΟῦ Τῆς ἘΝ Χ. ., not thereby expressing something different, but characterizing the love of Christ (toward us) as the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. The love of Christ, namely, is nothing else than the love of God Himself, which has its seat and place of operation in Christ. God is the original fountain, Christ the constant organ and mediating channel of one and the same love; so that in Christ is the love of God, and the love of Christ is the love of God in Christ. Comp. Romans 5:6; Romans 5:8.Romans 8:38 f. The Apostle’s personal conviction given in confirmation of all that has been said, especially of Romans 8:37. πέπεισμαι cf. 2 Timothy 1:12. οὔτε θάνατος οὔτε ζωὴ: death is mentioned first, either with Romans 8:36 in mind, or as the most tremendous enemy the Apostle could conceive. If Christ’s love can hold us in and through death, what is left for us to fear? Much of the N.T. bears on this very point, cf. John 8:51; John 10:28; John 11:25 f., 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15, 2 Corinthians 4:16 to 2 Corinthians 5:5, Romans 14:8, Hebrews 2:14 f. The blank horror of dying is annihilated by the love of Christ. Neither death nor life is to be explained: explanations “only limit the flight of the Apostle’s thoughts just when they would soar above all limitation” (Gifford). οὔτε ἄγγελοι οὔτε ἀρχαὶ: this, according to the best authorities, forms a second pair of forces conceivably hostile to the Christian. As in every pair there is a kind of contrast, some have sought one here also: either making ἄγγελοι good and ἀρχαὶ evil powers, though both spiritual; or ἄγγελοι heavenly, and ἀρχαὶ (as in Luke 12:11, Titus 3:1) earthly powers, in which case either might be either good or bad. But this is arbitrary: and a comparison of 1 Corinthians 15:24, Ephesians 1:21 favours a suggestion in S. and H. that possibly in a very early copy οὔτε δυνάμεις had been accidentally omitted after οὔτε ἀρχαὶ, and then added in the margin, but reinserted in a wrong place. The T.R. “neither angels nor principalities nor powers” brings together all the conceptions with which the Apostle peopled the invisible spiritual world, whatever their character, and declares their inability to come between us and the love of Christ. οὔτε ἐνεστῶτα οὔτε μέλλοντα: cf. 1 Corinthians 3:22. οὔτε ὕψωμα οὔτε βάθος: no dimensions of space. Whether these words pictured something to Paul’s imagination we cannot tell; the patristic attempts to give them definiteness are not happy. οὔτε τις κτίσις ἑτέρα: nor any created thing of different kind. All the things Paul has mentioned come under the head of κτίσις; if there is anything of a different kind which comes under the same head, he includes it too. The suggestions of “another world,” or of “aspects of reality out of relation to our faculties,” and therefore as yet unknown to us, are toys, remote from the seriousness and passion of the Apostle’s mind. Nothing that God has made, whatever be its nature, shall be able to separate us ἀπὸ τῆς ἁγάπης τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς ἐν Χ. . τοῦ κ. ἡμῷν, The love of Christ is God’s love. manifested to us in Him; and it is only in Him that a Divine love is manifested which can inspire the triumphant assurance of this verse.38. I am persuaded] Same word as Romans 14:14, Romans 15:14; 2 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 1:12; Hebrews 6:9. The word implies firm assurance on good grounds. Here, of course, this amounts (unless the passage is to end with an anticlimax) to the utmost certainty of expectation.

death] Through which we “depart, and are with Christ.” Php 1:23. Cp. also, throughout this passage, 1 Corinthians 3:22-23.

life] With its allurements or its sufferings.

angels, principalities, powers] The last word is to be transferred, perhaps, to stand after things to come.” In that case it may include the widest meanings of the word “power.” As placed in E. V., it must specially refer to (evil) angelic powers,—“Principalities:”—cp. Ephesians 3:10; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15; which assure us that the word here, standing close to “angels,” means not earthly but supernatural (and here evil) dominions.—For suggestions how such powers might seem to tend to “separate” the saint from the love of God, see Ephesians 6:12.

things present—things to come] Phrases in themselves quite exhaustive, whether or no they refer (as they may) to the present world and the future world respectively. He who holds His saints in His hand “is, and is to come.”Romans 8:38. Πέπεισμαι, I am persuaded) all doubt being overcome.—γὰρ) Things of less weight do not hurt us: for even things of greater weight shall not hurt us.—οὔτε θάνατος, κ.τ.λ., neither death, etc.) This is introduced from Romans 8:34, in an admirable order:

Neither death shall hurt us,

for Christ hath died:

nor life: comp. Romans 14:9.

He rose again:

nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come: comp. Ephesians 1:20-21.

Christ is at the right hand of God.

nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature.

He makes intercession.

Hence we have an illustration of the order of the words. For the enumeration moves in pairs; neither death nor life; nor things present, nor things to come. The other two pairs are subjoined by chiasmus;[103] nor power [1], nor height [2], nor depth [3], nor any other [4] creature; [the first referring to the fourth, the second to the third]; in such a way, however, that in some sense, also power and height, depth and any creature may be respectively joined together. A similar chiasmus occurs at Matthew 12:22, so that the blind and dumb both spake and saw, [blind referring to saw; dumb to spake]. But if any one should prefer the more commonly received reading of the order of enumeration, he may read as follows.—

[103] See Appendix. From the Greek X. When the component parts of two pairs of words or propositions have a mutual relation, inverse or direct.

Neither death, nor life:

nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers:

nor things present, nor things to come:

nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature
,

so that there may be four pairs of species, and the second and fourth pairs may have the genus added in the first or last place. But testimony of higher antiquity maintains the former order of enumeration to be superior.[104] See Appendix. Crit. Ed. ii., p. 329, etc. I acknowledge for my own part that the generally received order of the words is more easy, and the reader is free to choose either. At all events the relation of this enumeration to Romans 8:34, which was demonstrated above, is so evident, and so full of the doctrine of salvation, that it cannot be admitted to be an arbitrary interpretation. Now, we shall look at the same clauses one by one.—θάνατος, death) Death is considered as a thing most terrible and here it is put first, with which comp. Romans 8:34, and the order of its series, and Romans 8:36. Therefore the death also, which is inflicted by men, is indicated: burning alive, strangulation, casting to wild beasts, etc.[105]—ζωὴ, life) and in it θλίψις, affliction, etc., Romans 8:35 : likewise length of life, tranquillity, and all living men [as opposed to angels]. None of these things shall be hurtful, comp. 1 Corinthians 3:22 [in Romans 8:21 men are included].—ἄγγελοι, angels) The mention of angels is made, after the implied mention of men, in the way of gradation; 1 Corinthians 15:24, note. In this passage the statement may be understood as referring to good angels (conditionally, as Galatians 1:8), and of wicked angels (categorically): (for it will be found that

[104] ABCD(Λ)Gfg. Memph. later Syr. Versions, Orig. Hilary 291, Vulg. put the δυνάμεις before ὄυτε ὕψωμα. Rec. Text has no very ancient authority but Syr. Vers. for putting δυνάμεις before ὄυτε ἐνεστῶτα.—ED.

[105] The author in his Germ. Vers. expresses the suspicion, that the state of the dead is here indicated rather than actual slaughter; from the consideration, that already in ver 35, every kind of death may be comprehended under the term sword.—E. B.

the latter are also called angels absolutely, not merely angels of the devil; Matthew 25:41); 1 Corinthians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 6:3; 1 Corinthians 11:10; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 Peter 3:22; 2 Peter 2:4; Judges 1:6; Revelation 9:11, etc.; Psalm 78:49.—ἀρχαὶ, principalities) These are also comprehended under the general name angels, as well as other orders, Hebrews 1:4; Hebrews 1:14; but those seem to be specially denominated angels, who are more frequently sent than the rest of the heavenly orders. They are thus called principalities, and also thrones, Colossians 1:16; but not kingdoms, for the kingdom belongs to the Son of God, 1 Corinthians 15:24-25.—οὔτε ἐνεστῶτα οὔτε μέλλοντα, nor things present nor things to come) Things past are not mentioned, not even sins; for they have all passed away. Present things are the events, that happen to us during our earthly pilgrimage, or which befall the whole world, until it come to an end. For the saints are viewed either individually, or as a united body. Things future refer to whatever will occur to us either after our time in the world, or after that of the whole world has terminated, as the last judgment, the conflagration of the world, eternal punishment; or those things, which, though they now exist, will yet become known to us at length by name in the world to come, and not till then.—οὔτε δύναμις,1[106] nor power)[107] Δύναμις often corresponds to the Hebrew word צבא, and signifies forces, hosts.

[106] 1 fg Vulg. Ambrose and Augustine support the singular δύναμις. But all the other authorities quoted in my last note support δυνάμεις.—ED.

[107] D corrected by a later hand, d.Verses 38, 39. - For I am persuaded that no powers or circumstances whatever, external to ourselves, will ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, or consequently bar our attainment of our final inheritance. Additional Note on ver. 29, seq. The view given above of St. Paul's intention and meaning is by no means meant as ignoring the essential mystery of predestination, however regarded. Divine omnipotence combined with omniscience on the one hand, and human free-will on the other, seem indeed to human reason to be incompatible ideas; yet we are compelled to entertain both - the one on the ground, not only of scriptural teaching, but also of our conception of the Divine Being; the other on the ground, not only of our conception of Divine justice, but also of our own irresistible consciousness, and of scriptural teaching too. Such difficulty of reconciliation between two apparently necessary ideas is not peculiar to theology; philosophy has it too; and there are necessitarians among philosophers, as well as predestinarians among theologians, equally contradicting man's irresistible consciousness of having the power of choice. We can only regard the conflicting conceptions as partial apprehensions of a great truth which as a whole is beyond us. The apparent contradiction between them may be due to the failure of finite beings to comprehend infinity. They have been compared to two parallel straight lines, which, according to geometrical definition, can never meet, and yet, according to the higher mathematical theory, meet in infinity; or we may take the illustration of an asymptote, which from a finite point of view can never possibly touch a curve, and yet, in analytical geometry, is found to cross it at an infinite distance. For the practical purposes of life both ideas may be entertained; and it is only human attempts to reconcile them in theory, or to escape the difficulty by denying free-will altogether, that have given rise to the endless controversies on the subject. It is important to observe how St. Paul, though he distinctly intimates both conceptions (as he must needs do as a preacher of God's truth in all its aspects), and though his allusions to predestination have been made a main support of Calvinistic views, never really propounds a theory. When he alludes to the subject, it is with a practical purpose; and when (as in this chapter) he speaks of God's predestination of believers to glory, his purpose is to encourage them to persevere in holiness on the ground of their assurance of God's eternal purpose concerning them, the essential human conditions being all along supposed to be fulfilled (see also note on Hebrews 6:16-20, in 'Pulpit Commentary').



Powers (ἀρχαί)

Angelic, higher than mere angels.

Things present (ἐνεστῶτα)

Only in Paul and Hebrews 9:9. The verb literally means to stand in sight. Hence to impend or threaten. So 2 Thessalonians 2:2; 2 Timothy 3:1; 1 Corinthians 7:26. Used of something that has set in or begun. So some render here. Bengel says: "Things past are not mentioned, not even sins, for they have passed away."

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