Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary - Alford
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.Chap. 8:1-39.] In the case of those who are in Christ Jesus, this divided state ends in the glorious triumph of the Spirit over the flesh: and that (vv. 1-17), though incompletely, not inconsiderably, even here in this state,—and (vv. 18-30) completely and gloriously hereafter. And (vv. 31-39) the Christian has no reason to fear, but all reason to hope; for nothing can sever him from God’s love in Christ.
1-17.] Although the flesh is still subject to the law of sin, the Christian, serving not the flesh, but walking according to the Spirit, shall not come into condemnation, but to glory with Christ.
1.] There is therefore (an inference from ch. 7:25, because with their mind, and that mind dwelt in and led by the Spirit of Christ, they serve, delight in, the law of God) now (this νῦν is emphatic, and follows upon the question and answer of 7:24, 25,—rebus sic stantibus,—now that a deliverance has been effected from the body of this death, by Christ. This is certain from the γάρ which follows, setting forth the fact of the deliverance) no condemnation (reff.; = the penal consequence of sin original and actual) to those (who are) in Christ Jesus. The expression ἐν χρ. Ἰης. refers particularly to the last place where God’s gift of life eternal in Christ Jesus our Lord was spoken of, ch. 6:23,—and generally to all that was said in that chapter of our incorporation into and union with Him. The words μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα, ‘walking as they do not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit,’ are probably a gloss introduced from ver. 4, right enough in sense (see there), but out of place here, because this moral element of ‘those in Christ’ is not yet brought in: the present assertion is general, and is made good in detail by and by. See digest.
2.] For (a reason why there is no condemnation) the law (norma, method = influence, as in ἕτερον νόμον, ch. 7:23,—used here perhaps for sharper contrast to the νόμος ἁμαρτ. below) of the Spirit of life (the Lord and Giver of life—life used in an incipient higher sense than ἔζων in ch. 7:9,—see below) freed me (aor., referring to the time of his conversion. There is no stronger proof to my mind of the identity of the speaker in the first person throughout with the Apostle himself, than this extension of that form of speaking into this chapter: nothing more clearly shews, that there he was describing a really existing state within himself, but insulating, and as it were exaggerating it (as so often), to bring out more clearly the glorious deliverance to follow. If σε be read, the address is a general one to the reader, leading on to the ἡμῖν below: and the foregoing argument does not apply) in Jesus Christ (I follow the more regular grammatical arrangement in taking ἐν χρ. Ἰης. with the verb. Thus also Thol. and De Wette.
It may be taken (notwithstanding the absence of the art., at which indeed only tiros will stumble) with ζωῆς, as Luther, which seems to suit ch. 6:23,—or with τοῦπν. τ. ζ., as Piscator and Flatt,—or with ὁ νόμ. τ. π. τ. ζ., as Calv.) from the law of sin (7:25) and death (death again here bears a higher meaning than in ch. 7. We are now on higher ground:—κατάκριμα having been mentioned, which is the punishment of sin, death now involves that, and is not only temporal misery, but eternal ruin also.
This ‘law of the Spirit of life’ having freed him from the law of sin and death, so that he serves another master, all claim of sin on him is at an end—he is acquitted, and there is no condemnation for him).
3.] For (explanation of ver. 2, shewing the method of this liberation) that which was not in the power of the law (the construction is a nominativus pendens, as in ref. Heb., in apposition with the following sentence, ὁ θεὸς κ.τ.λ.: so Rückert, Meyer, Fritz., De W., Tholuck: Winer, § 32. 7, makes it an acc. governed by ἐποίησεν understood (stating however in edn. 6, the nom. pendens as an alternative; see also § 63. I. 2. d): Olsh. al., make it an acc. absol. or supply κατά: Camerarius and Beza, διὰ;—but the above seems the simplest.
τὸ ἀδύνατ. τοῦ νόμου may mean either, ‘that part of the law which was impossible,’—‘could not be obeyed,’—as τὸ γνωστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, ch. 1:19;—or, ‘the inability of the law’ = ἡ ἀδυναμία τ. ν., as τὸ χρηστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, ch. 2:4;—or, ‘that which was unable to be done by the law.’ Of these, the first is out of the question, because νόμος must be the subject of ἐν ᾧ ἠσθ. κ.τ.λ.:—the second would give the first clause the meaning, ‘that wherein the inability of the law shewed itself,’ viz. its powerlessness διὰ τ. σαρκός. The third yields by far the best meaning: see below on διὰ τ. ς.) in that (this clause gives a reason and explanation of the ἀδύνατον, see however the note on ref. Heb.) it was weak (the Apostle keeps in mind his defence of the holiness of the law undertaken in ch. 7, and as Chrys. observes, δοκεῖ μὲν διαβάλλειν τὸν νόμον, εἰ δέ τις ἀκριβῶς προσέχοι, καὶ σφόδρα αὐτὸν ἐπαινεῖ … οὐδὲ γὰρ εἶπε τὸ πονηρὸν τοῦ νόμου, ἀλλὰ τὸ ἀδύνατον· καὶ πάλιν ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει, οὐκ, ἐν ᾧ ἐκακούργει, ἐν ᾧ ἐπεβούλενε. Hom. xiv. p. 563) through the flesh (i.e. in having to act through the flesh: not, ‘on account of the flesh,’ i.e. of the hostility, or weakness of the flesh, which would be διὰ τὴν σάρκα. The flesh was the medium through which the law,—being a νόμος ἐντολῆς σαρκίνης, Hebrews 7:16,—wrought, and οἱ ἐν σαρκί the objects on which. So the gen. here is similar to that in 2Corinthians 2:4, ἔγραψα ὑμῖν διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων, and 1Peter 5:12, διʼ ὀλίγων ἔγραψα, indicating the state in or medium through which, the action is carried on),—God (did) sending His own Son (the stress is on ἑαυτοῦ, and the word is pregnant with meaning:—His own, and therefore like Himself, holy and sinless. This implication should be borne in mind, as the suppressed antithesis to ἁμαρτ., three times repeated afterwards. Another antithesis may be implied—ἑαυτοῦ, and therefore spiritual, not acting merely through the flesh, though in its likeness, but bringing a higher spiritual life into the manhood) in the likeness of the flesh of sin (the flesh whose attribute and character was sin. The gen. is not = ἁμαρτωλοῦ, but implies far more—[not merely the contamination by, but] the belonging to and being possessed by. De Wette observes, ‘The words ἐν ὁμοιώμ. σαρκ. ἁμ. appear almost to border on Docetism; but in reality contain a perfectly true and consistent sentiment. σὰρξ ἁμαρτ. is flesh (human nature, John 1:14; 1John 4:2; Hebrews 2:14) possessed with sin: the Apostle could not then have said ἐν σαρκὶ ἁμ. without making Christ partaker of sin: nor could he have said merely ἐν σαρκί, for then the bond between the Manhood of Jesus, and sin, would have been wanting: he says then, ἐν ὁμοιώμ. σαρ. ἁμ.,—meaning by that, He had a nature like sinful human nature, but had not Himself a sinful nature,—compare Hebrews 4:15: οὐ γὰρ ἔχομεν ἀρχιερέα μὴ δυνάμενον συνπαθῆσαι ταῖς ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, πεπειρασμένον δὲ κατὰ πάντα καθʼ ὁμοιότητα χωρὶς ἁμαρτίας. The likeness must be referred not only to σάρξ, but also to the epithet τῆς ἁμ.:—it did not however consist in this, that He took our sins (literally) on Himself, and became Himself sinful (as Reiche), which would not amount to likeness of nature,—but in this, that He was able to be tempted, i.e. subjected to sensuous incitements, e.g. of pain, which in other men break out into sin, but in Him did not.’ See Philippians 2:7, and note.
σάρξ is not = σῶμα, but as in John 1:14, the material, of which man is in the body compounded),—and on account of sin (to be joined with πέμψας, not as Chrys. al. Vulg., with κατέκρινεν: least of all as Luther, “und verdammete die Sünde in Fleisch durch Sünde.” The ‘for,’ or ‘on account of,’ sin, is at present indefinite, and not to be restricted to Christ’s death as a sin-offering, which is not just now the subject. ‘On account of sin’ then, = to put away sin, as reff. Heb.), condemned sin in the flesh (not ‘the sin which was in the flesh,’ which would probably (not certainly) have been τὴν ἐν τ. ς., and which is against the context, in which ἁμ. is throughout an absolute principle.
κατέκρινεν is allusive to κατάκριμα ver. 1. Hence it has been taken to mean that God condemned, punished, sin in the flesh by the death of Christ: so , Erasm., Calv., Melancthon, Calov., Olsh., al. But that can hardly be the meaning here, for several reasons. 1. The Apostle is not speaking of the removal of the guilt, but of the practice of sin, and of the real fulfilment of the law in those who are in Christ. It is this which even in ver. 1 is before him, grounding as he does the οὐδὲν κατάκριμα on the δουλεύω νόμῳ θεοῦ—on the new and sanctifying power of the Spirit by Christ, in spite of the continued subjection of the flesh to the law of sin. 2. The context shews that the weakness of the law was, its having no sanctifying power;—it could arouse sin, but it could not condemn and cast it out. This indeed is the burden of ch. 7. The absence of justifying power in the law has already been dealt with. 3. The following verse clearly makes the fulfilling the δικαίωμα of the law no matter of mere imputation, but of περιπατεῖν κατὰ πνεῦμα.
We must then look for the meaning of κατακρίνειν in the effects and accompaniments of condemnation,—victory over, and casting out of sin. See, for example, John 12:31, where κρίσις τοῦ κόσμου τούτου is explained by ὁ ἄρχων τοῦ κόσμου τούτου ἐκβληθήσεται ἔξω, and ib. 16:11. As early as Irenæus (Hær. iii. 20. 2, p. 214) this was seen to be the sense: ‘ut condemnaret peccatum, et jam quasi condemnatum projiceret illud extra carnem:’—so Chrys., ἐνίκησεν αὐτήν, τὴν δύναμιν αὐτῆς ἐξέλυσε,—Œcum. 2, πῶς ἐξῆρε; κατακρίνας αὐτὴν—καὶ δείξας ἁλοῦσαν. πῶς οὖν ἑάλω καὶ ἥττηται; ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ. προσιέναι γὰρ βουληθεῖσα κ. μὴ ἰσχύσασα ἑάλω κ. ἥττηται,—and Theophyl. (τὴν σάρκα) ἡγίασε κ. ἐστεφάνωσε, κατακρίνας τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ προσληφθείσῃ καὶ δείξας ὅτι οὐ φύσει ἁμαρτωλὸς ἡ σάρξ. And so, in modern times, Beza, Vitringa, Bengel, the Schmidts, Rosenm., Meyer, De Wette, Tholuck, Locke, Stuart, al., and mainly Grot., Reiche, and Fritz., who however render it ‘interfecit’ or ‘supplicio affecit,’ and understand the occasion to have been the Death of Christ,—though the condemnation of sin is owing to His sinlessness, not to His sacrifice. I have dwelt at length on this question, as being very important to the right apprehension of the whole chapter, in this part of which not the justification, but the sanctification, of Christians is the leading subject. It is a strong confirmation of the above view, that God’s condemnation of sin in the flesh by Christ is stated in ver. 3 as the ground of (ver. 2) my being freed from the law of sin and death: because, viz. Christ’s victory over sin is mine, by my union with Him and participation in His Spirit.
ἐν τῇ σαρκί is not ‘in His flesh,’ or ‘by means of His flesh,’ as Orig., Syr. (Peschito), Beza, Grot., Reiche, Olsh., al., but ‘in the flesh,’ which Christ and ourselves have in common),
4.] in order that (the purpose of God’s condemning sin in the flesh) the righteous demand (or, requirement) of the law (= all its requirements (statutes), but here combined in one for the sake of more distinct objectivity. The variations in interpretation of ver. 3 have given rise to corresponding ones here. But here the matter has been more complicated still by the Vulg. rendering δικαίωμα, ‘justificatio,’ which has thrown the weight of the Romanist interpreters on the side of ‘justitia imputata.’ The usage of the word itself would preclude any such reference here, besides the considerations urged in the note above) might be fulfilled in us (find its full accomplishment;—not merely = ‘be performed by us,’—for the Apostle has a much deeper meaning, viz. that the aim of God in giving the Law might be accomplished in us, in our sanctification, which is the ultimate end of our redemption, Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:22. The passive is used, to shew that the work is not ours, but that of God by His grace, Olsh., Thol., De Wette) who walk (not ‘walking as we do,’ which would be anarthrous,—but a description of all those of whom the above is true) not after the flesh but after the Spirit (who, notwithstanding that we are bound up with a σὰρξ ἁμαρτίας, do not walk in our daily life according to, or led by, the νόμος τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ ἐν τοῖς μέλεσιν ἡμῶν, but according to and led by the νόμος τοῦ πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς, in Christ Jesus—members of Him, and participating in that victory over sin which He obtained, by which the power of sin in our flesh is broken).
5.] For (explanation of the last) those who live according to the flesh (ὄντες not quite = περιπατοῦντες, but nearly:—the latter is the evidence of the former, and a consequence of it: οἱ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες = οἱ σάρκινοι) mind (‘think of,’ ‘care for, and strive after,’ see reff.) the things belonging to the flesh (its objects of desire): but those (who live) according to the Spirit (= οἱ πνευματικοί, see above), (mind) the things belonging to the Spirit (the higher aims and objects of desire of the spiritual life).
6.] For (the spiritual man cannot seek the things of the flesh, because) the mind (thoughts, cares, and aims as above) of the flesh is (ends in—the copula (=), as when it joins the two signs of an algebraic operation;—‘amounts to, being worked out’) death (not merely physical, nor mere unhappiness, as sometimes in ch. 7, but as in ver. 2, in the largest sense, extending to eternity); but the mind (thoughts, cares, and aims) of the Spirit, is (see above) life and peace (in the largest sense, as above). In this argument there is a suppressed premiss, to be supplied from ver. 2; viz. ‘The Spirit is the Spirit of life.’ Hence it follows that the spiritual man cannot mind the things of the flesh, because such mind is death. The addition καὶ εἰρήνη seems to be made to enhance the unlikelihood of such a minding,—the peace of the Spirit being a blessed contrast to the tumult of the fleshly lusts, even in this life.
7.] Because (reason why the mind of the flesh is death) the mind of the flesh is enmity (contrast to εἰρήνη above) against God (it being assumed that God is the source of ζωή, and that ἔχθρα against Him is the absence of all true peace): for it does not submit itself (better [than the passive of the E. V.]) to the law of God,—for neither can it (this was proved in ch. 7):
8.] but (takes up the other and inferential member of the proposition, answering to a suppressed μέν preceding,—τὸ μὲν φρόνημα κ.τ.λ. [bringing in a further consequence: if the mind of the flesh cannot be subject to God’s law, then they who are in the flesh, and are led by that mind, cannot please God]. Calv., Beza, al. render it ‘therefore,’ and so E. V., ‘so then,’ erroneously) they who are in the flesh (as their element of life and thought: nearly—κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες above, which however denotes the rule which they follow. In 2Corinthians 10:3, the two are distinguished: ἐν σαρκὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦντες οὐ κατὰ σάρκα στρατευόμεθα) cannot please God.
Melancthon remarks (Thol.),—‘Hic locus maxime refutat Pelagianos et omnes qui imaginantur homines sine Spiritu Sancto legi obedire.’
9.] But (oppos. to οἱ κατ. σάρ. ὄντες) ye are not in the flesh (see above), but in the Spirit, if so be that (‘provided that;’ not ‘since,’ as Chrys., Olsh., al., which would be ἐπείπερ: Chrys. tries to prove εἴπερ = ἐπείπερ here by adducing ref. 2 Thess., where, however, as here, the meaning is, ‘if so be that,’ ‘if at least.’ That this is the meaning here is evident by the exception which immediately follows). But (this must be rightly understood: for) if any man has not ([not ‘have not,’ as E. V.; the case is put as an existent one] οὐκ, and not μή, because it belongs to the verb and not to εἰ. De W. See Winer, edn. 6, § 55. 2. d) the Spirit of Christ (= πν. θεοῦ above. Obs. here that πν. θεοῦ, πν. χριστοῦ, and χριστός, are all used of the Holy Spirit indwelling in the Christian), he is not His (belongs not to Him, in the higher and blessed sense of being united to Him as a member of Him).
1.] Now ([in slight] contrast to the last verse [he brings out one point, which might seem to be an exception to the blessed consequences of the life-giving power of Christ indwelling in us]) if Christ is in you (= πν. θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμ., see 2Corinthians 3:17), the (your) body indeed is dead on account of sin (still remains dead, see 2Corinthians 4:11-14, under the power of death physical (and eternal?) because of sin which it, per se, stands in, and serves), but the (your) spirit (τὴν ψυχὴν λέγει, ὡς πνευματικὴν ἤδη γεγενημένην. Schol. ap. Matthæi (Thol.): or rather perhaps he [now] uses πνεῦμα, regarding our spirits as possessed and penetrated by God’s Spirit) is life (this would hardly be said if only our human spirits were meant, but the description would be in the adjectival form) on account of righteousness (not here the imputed righteousness of justification, which is not now under treatment, but the implanted righteousness of the sanctification of the Spirit. This appears not only from the context, but also from the διὰ ἁμαρτίαν, which answers to it).
11.] But (δέ takes up and continues the supposition in the former verse, with which in fact this is nearly identical, but with the important additional particular (whence the contrast) τοῦ ἐγείραντ. κ.τ.λ.) if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead, dwells in you (which Spirit is therefore powerful over death, and besides renders you partakers of Christ’s Resurrection), He who raised Christ from the dead (the personal name, Jesus, reminds more of the historic fact of the resurrection of the one Person, Jesus: the official and mystical name, Christ, of the body of which He is the Head and we the members,—all raised with Him by the one Spirit dwelling in all) shall quicken (not merely ἐγερεῖ, because it is not merely the resurrection of the body which is in the Apostle’s view,—see below) even your mortal bodies (the higher phase of the ζωοποιεῖν takes place in the spirit of man: and even of that which takes place in the body, there are two branches—one, the quickening it from being a tool of unrighteousness unto death (eternal),—the other, the quickening it out of death (physical) to be a new and glorified body. And the καί joined with θνητά, here, signifies that the working of the πνεῦμα ζωοποιοῦν shall not stop at the purely spiritual resurrection, nor at that of the body from dead works to serve the living God, but shall extend even to the building up the spiritual body in the future new and glorious life), on account of His Spirit which dwells in you.
Here the reading is much disputed, whether it be the acc. or gen.: see var. readd. The gen. can only mean, ‘by means of,’ ‘through,’ His Spirit, &c.: this the acc. may include, (it not being specified for what reason it is on the Spirit’s account, and leaving it open to be His presence, or His agency,) but must be rendered ‘on account of,’ or ‘because of,’ His Spirit, &c. Thus both may imply that the Holy Spirit is the agent in the quickening; but the gen. cannot bear the other meaning, that God will quicken, &c. because of His Spirit, &c. Hence in dispute with the Macedonians, who denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the gen. reading was important to the orthodox, as expressing agency, and that alone. But it seems pretty clear that the variation was older than the time of this heresy, and, however it may then have been appealed to, its origin cannot be assigned to any falsification by either of the then disputant parties. As to how far the Holy Spirit is the direct Agent in the resurrection of the body, see note on πνεῦμα ζωοπ., 1Corinthians 15:45, and on 2Corinthians 5:5. Here, His direct agency cannot be in any way surprising, for it is the whole process of bringing from death to life, extending even to the mortal body, which is here spoken of—and unquestionably, ‘the Lord and Giver of Life’ is the agent throughout in this quickening. ‘Non de ultima resurrectione, quæ momento fiet, habetur sermo, sed de continua Spiritus operatione, quæ reliquias carnis paullatim mortificans, cœlestem vitam in nobis instaurat.’ Calv.:—but perhaps ‘non solum de ultima resurrectione,’ would have been more correct: for it certainly is one thing spoken of.
12, 13.] So then, brethren, we are (inference from the assurance in the last verse) debtors (we owe fealty: to what or whom, he leaves the reader to supply from ver. 11), not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (Chrysostom well explains the qualification, τοῦ κατὰ σ. ζ.,—καὶ γὰρ πολλὰ αὐτῇ ὀφείλομεν, τὸ τρέφειν αὐτήν, τὸ θάλπειν, τὸ ἀναπαύειν, τὸ θεραπεύειν νοσοῦσαν, τὸ περιβάλλειν, καὶ μυρία ἕτερα λειτουργεῖν. ἵνʼ οὖν μὴ νομίσῃς ὅτι ταύτην ἀναιρεῖ τὴν διακονίαν, εἰπὼν οὐκ ἐσμ. ὀφ. τῇ σαρ., ἑρμηνεύει αὐτὸ λέγων τοῦ κ. σ. ζῇν· … τουτέστι μὴ ποιῶμεν αὐτὴν κυρίαν τῆς ζωῆς τῆς ἡμετέρας. Hom. xiv. p. 576): for if ye live according to the flesh, ye [must (or,] will, μέλλετε of the certain end of your present course) die (ζῆν and ἀποθν. here in their full and pregnant sense, involving body and soul here and hereafter: but not to be understood as excluding the carnal from any resurrection—only from that which is truly ζῆν,—any more than the spiritual are exempted from all death, but only from that which is truly θάνατος): but if by the Spirit ye slay (abolish, annul) the deeds (hardly as Thol. ‘sensu obscœno,’ but as Colossians 3:9, the whole course of habits and action which has the flesh for its prompter) of the body (= τῆς σαρκός, but here concrete to give more vivid reality: compare τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, Galatians 5:19), ye shall live (not μέλλετε ζῆν, this Life being no natural consequence of a course of mortifying the deeds of the body, but the gift of God through Christ: and coming therefore in the form of an assurance, ‘ye shall live,’ from Christ’s Apostle. On ζῆν, see above).
14.] For (ground of the assurance contained in ζήσεσθε) as many as are led by (reff.;—the slaying the deeds of the body by the Spirit, implies the being under the Spirit’s guidance) the Spirit of God, these (emphatic—‘these and no others’) are sons of God.
νἱὸς θ. differs from τέκνον θ. in implying the higher and more mature and conscious member of God’s family, see Galatians 4:1-6, and note on 6. Hence our Lord is never called τέκνον but always νἱὸς θεοῦ. This latter, applied to a Christian, signifies ‘one born of God’ in the deepest relation to him,—and hence a partaker of His nature, 1John 3:9; 1Peter 1:23 (Tholuck, similarly Olsh.).
15, 16.] Appeal to the consciousness of the Christian to confirm the assertion (assumed for the moment that he is led by God’s Spirit) that he is a son of God. For (confirmantis) ye did not receive (at your becoming Christians) the spirit of bondage (= ‘the Spirit which ye received was not a spirit of bondage.’ πν. is not merely a spirit, a disposition, but evidently refers to the same πν. which afterwards is πν. νἱοθες., and αὐτὸ τὸ πν. The Apostle seems however in this form of expression, both here and elsewhere, see reff., to have combined the objective Πνεῦμα given to us by God with our own subjective πνεῦμα. In the next verse they are separated) [leading back (or,] again [; but the latter word is undesirable, as] it has been imagined here that the πάλιν must refer to a former bestowal of the πνεῦμα δουλείας, and consequently that the reference is to the O. T. dispensation. In this two different sets of Commentators have found difficulties; (1) those, as Chrys.,—who would hold from John 7:39, that the Holy Spirit was absolutely not given under the O. T., and (2) those, as Cocceius, who holding Him to have been given, deny that His character was πν. δουλείας. But there seems to me to be no occasion to go back for the reference of πάλιν to the O. T. The state of the natural man is δουλεία: the Holy Spirit given to them, the agent of their birth into, and sustainer of, a new state, was not a πν. δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φ., a spirit merely to retain them in, or take them back into their old state, viz. a state of slavery:—to whom, or whether to different masters, is not here in question, but the state merely—the object of the gift of the Holy Spirit was not to lead them back into this) towards fear (so as to bring about or result in fear, see ch. 6:19. πάλιν can hardly, as De W., be taken with εἰς φόβ.), but ye received the Spirit of (the Spirit whose effect was, see above) adoption (this stricter meaning, and not that of mere sonship, is plainly that intended by the Apostle, both here and in reff. So Fritz., Meyer, Olsh., Harless on Ephesians 1:5, Tholuck: on the other hand Luther, Winer, Rückert, De Wette, al., see on ver. 23. Of course, the adoption to be a son involves sonship, but not the converse), in whom (compare ἐν πνεύματι ch. 2:29, and ver. 9. Luth. and Tholuck, ‘through, by means of, whom:’ but τὸ πνεῦμα = Him in whom, not merely Him by whom, not being merely an external agent, but an indwelling and pervading power) we cry (the earnest expression of supplicating prayer, see reff. LXX) Abba, Father (I have said, on ref. Mark, that ὁ πατ. does not appear to be a mere explanation of אַבָּא, but to have been joined to it in one phrase, as a form of address: expressing probably, a corresponding ‘my father,’ אָבִי, in the Heb. expression. Luther, to express the familiarity of Abba, renders ‘lieber Vater,’ ‘dear Father’). See on the whole, the strictly parallel place, ref. Gal.
16.] And this confidence is grounded on the testimony of the Spirit itself. So Chrys.: οὐ γὰρ ἀπὸ τῆς φωνῆς ἰσχυρίζομαι μόνον, φησίν, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς αἰτίας ἀφʼ ἧς ἡ φωνὴ τίκτεται.… οὐ γὰρ τοῦ χαρίσματός ἐστιν ἡ φωνὴ μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦ δόντος τὴν δωρεὰν παρακλήτου· αὐτὸς γὰρ ἡμᾶς οὗτος ἐδίδαξε διὰ τοῦ χαρίσματος οὕτω φθέγγεσθαι. Hom. xiv. p. 579. This verse being without copula, is best understood to refer to the same as the preceding, and the assertion to concern the same fact as the last verb, κράζομεν,—as if it were αὐτοῦ τοῦ πν. συμμαρτυροῦντος κ.τ.λ., grounding that fact on an act of the indwelling Spirit Himself. See again Galatians 4:6.
The Spirit itself (not ‘idem Spiritus,’ as Erasm. and similarly Luth., Reiche, al.: the αὐτό expresses the independence, and at the same time, as coming from God, the preciousness and importance of the testimony) testifies to our spirit (see ch. 2:15, and note: not ‘una testatur:’ the σύν in composition does not refer to τῷ πν. ἡμ., but to agreement in the fact, as in ‘contestari’ ‘confirmare’) that we are children of God. What is this witness of the Spirit itself? All have agreed, and indeed this verse is decisive for it, that it is something separate from, and higher than, all subjective inferences and conclusions. But on the other hand it does not consist in mere indefinite feeling, but in a certitude of the Spirit’s presence and work continually asserted within us. It is manifested, as Olsh. beautifully says, in His comforting us, His stirring us up to prayer, His reproof of our sins, His drawing us to works of love, to bear testimony before the world, &c. And he adds, with equal truth, “On this direct testimony of the Holy Ghost rests, ultimately, all the regenerate man’s conviction respecting Christ and His work. For belief in Scripture itself (he means, in the highest sense of the term ‘belief,’ = ‘conviction personally applied’) has its foundation in this experience of the divine nature of the (influencing) Principle which it promises, and which, while the believer is studying it, infuses itself into him.”
The same Commentator remarks, that this is one of the most decisive passages against the pantheistic view of the identity of the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. However the one may by renovating power be rendered like the other, there still is a specific difference. The spirit of man may sin (2Corinthians 7:1), the Spirit of God cannot, but can only be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), or quenched (1Thessalonians 5:19), and it is by the infusion of this highest Principle of Holiness, that man becomes one spirit with the Lord Himself (1Corinthians 6:17).
τέκνα θεοῦ] Here, (not νἱοί) because the testimony respects the very ground and central point of sonship, likeness to and desire for God: the testimony of the Spirit shewing us by our yearnings after, our confidence in, our regard to God, that we are verily begotten of Him.
17.] Consequences of our being children of God. But (announcing a result, as in a mathematical proposition: ‘but, if &c.’) if children, also heirs (which is the universal rule of mankind: but κληρ. here must not be carried to the extent of the idea of heir in all directions: it is merely the one side of inheriting by promise, which is here brought out: the word referring back probably to ch. 4:13, 14, the promise to Abraham); heirs of God (as our Father, giving the inheritance to us), and joint-heirs with Christ (whom God has made κληρονόμον πάντων, Hebrews 1:2.
Tholuck remarks: “It is by virtue of their substantial unity with the father, that the children come into participation of his possession. The Roman law regarded them as continuators of his personality. The dignity of the inheritance is shewn (1) by its being God’s possession, (2) by its being the possession of the Firstborn of God. By the Roman law, the share of the firstborn was no greater than that of the other children,—and the N. T. sets forth this view, making the redeemed equal to Christ (ver. 29), and Christ’s possessions, theirs; 1Corinthians 3:21-23; John 17:22. In the joint-heirship we must not bring out this point, that Christ is the rightful Heir, who shares His inheritance with the other children of God: it is as adoptive children that they get the inheritance, and Christ is so far only the means of it, as He gives them power to become sons of God, John 1:12”); if at least (see above on ver. 9) we are suffering with Him, that we may also be glorified with Him: i.e. ‘if (provided that) we are found in that course of participation in Christ’s sufferings, whose aim and end, as that of His sufferings, is to be glorified as He was, and with Him.’ But the εἴπερ does not regard the subjective aim, q. d. ‘If at least our aim in suffering is, to be glorified,’—but the fact of our being partakers of that course of sufferings with Him, whose aim is, wherever it is found, to be glorified with Him.
Thol. takes the ἵνα as dependent on συγκληρ. (= ὥστε), and εἴπερ συνπ. as quasiparenthetical; but the above seems to me more satisfactory.
This last clause serves as a transition to vv. 18-30, in which the Apostle treats of the complete and glorious triumph of God’s elect, through sufferings and by hope, and the blessed renovation of all things in and by their glorification.
18.] For (= this suffering with Him in order to being glorified with Him is no casting away of toil and self-denial, seeing that) I reckon (implying, ‘I myself am one who have embraced this course, being convinced’) that the sufferings of this present period (of trial and sorrow, contrasted with the period of triumph following the παρονσία of Christ) are insignificant (οὐκ ἄξια = ἀνάξια,—no gen. or verb understood. ἄξιος and ἀνάξιος are found in the sense of ‘worthy (or unworthy) to be compared with’ in the classics: so Hom. Π. θ. 234, νῦν δʼ οὔθʼ ἑνὸς ἄξιοι ἐσμὲν Ἕκτορος, and Plato, Protag. (Wetst.), ἀνάξιά ἐστι τʼ ἀγαθὰ τῶν κακῶν, and again τίς ἄλλη ἀναξία ἡδονὴ πρὸς λύπην ἐστίν;) in comparison with the glory which is to be revealed (μέλλ. put first, as in reff., but apparently not, as De W., for the sake of emphasis. Thol. cites Demosth., p. 486. 10, ἐν τοῖς οὖσι νόμοις κυρίοις, in which there is no emphasis, as neither in ref. 1 Cor.
ἀποκαλ., at the ἀποκάλυψις of Christ. On the sentiment, see 2Corinthians 4:17) with regard to us (not merely ἡμῖν, as spectators, but εἰς ἡμᾶς, as the subjects of the revelation; the E. V. is not far wrong, ‘in us,’ taking the εἰς in a pregnant sense as ἦν κηρύσσων εἰς τὰς συν., Luke 4:44 [but it must not be understood as meaning within us, in our hearts]). Bernard amplifies this—de Convers. ad Cleric. c. xxi. 37 (30), vol. i. p. 494,—‘non sunt condignæ passiones hujus temporis ad præteritam culpam quæ remittitur, non ad præsentem consolationis gratiam quæ immittitur, non ad futuram gloriam quæ promittitur nobis.’
19 ff.] The greatness of this glory is shewn by the fact that all creation, now under the bondage of corruption, shall be set free from it by the glorification of the sons of God. For (proof of this transcendent greatness of the glory, not, as De W., of the certainty of its manifestation, though this secondary thought is perhaps in the background) the patient expectation (hardly = ἡ σφόδρα προσδοκία, as Chrys., whom Luther and E. V. follow; but better προσδοκία εἰς τὸ τέλος,—the ἀπό denoting, as also in ἀπεκδέχεται, that the expectation continues till the time is exhausted, and the event arrives) of the creation (= all this world except man, both animate and inanimate: see an account of the exegesis below) waits for (see above) the revelation of the sons of God (‘revelatur gloria: et tum revelantur etiam filii Dei.’ Beng.
νἱῶν, not τέκνων, because their sonship will be complete, and possessed of all its privileges and glories).
ἡ κτίσις has been very variously understood. There is a full history of the exegesis in Tholuck. De Wette sums it up thus: “The Creation,—i.e. things created,—has by many been erroneously taken in an arbitrarily limited sense; e.g. as applying only, I. to inanimate creation, as Chrys., Theophyl., Calv., Beza, Aret., ‘mundi machina,’ Luther, the Schmidts, al., Fritz., ‘mundi machina, cœli sidera, aer, terra:’—against this are the words οὐχ ἑκοῦσα and συνστενάζει κ. συνωδίνει, implying life in the κτίσις,—for to set these down to mere personification is surely arbitrary:—and one can imagine no reason why bestial creation should be excluded. II. to living creation: (1) to mankind; , Turret., all., take it of men not yet believers: (2) Locke, Lightf., Hammond, Semler, of the yet unconverted Gentiles: (3) Cramer, Gersdorf, al., of the yet unconverted Jews: (4) Le Clerc, al., of the converted Gentiles; (5) al., of the converted Jews; (6) al., of all Christians:”—“but,” as he proceeds, “against (II.) lies this objection, that if the Apostle had wished to speak of the enslaving and freeing of mankind, he hardly would have omitted reference to sin as the ground of the one and faith of the other, and the judgment on unbelievers. But on the other hand we must not extend the idea of κτίσις too wide, as Theodoret, who includes the angels, Köllner, who understands the whole Creation, animate and inanimate, rational and irrational, and Olsh., who includes the unconverted Gentiles: nor make it too indefinite, as Koppe and Rosenm.: ‘tota rerum universitas.’ The right explanation is, all animate and inanimate nature as distinguished from mankind: so Irenæus, Grot., Calov., Wolf, Rückert, Reiche, al., Meyer, Neander, Schneckenburger, Thol.” The idea of the renovation and glorification of all nature at the revelation of the glory of our returned Saviour, will need no apology nor seem strange to the readers of this commentary, nor to the students of the following, and many other passages of the prophetic word: Isaiah 11:6 ff.; Isaiah 65:17 ff.; Rev_21; 2Peter 3:13; Acts 3:21.
20.] Explanation of the reason why all creation waits, &c. For the creation was made subject to vanity (= הֶבֶל, Psalm 39:6,—where (38:5) the LXX have τὰ σύμπαντα ματαιότης. So also Ecclesiastes 1:2 and passim. It signifies the instability, liability to change and decay, of all created things) not willingly (‘cum a corruptione naturâ res omnes abhorreant.’ Bucer in Thol.) but on aocount of (διὰ is so far from losing its proper meaning by the reference of τὸν ὑποτάξαντα to God, as Jowett affirms, that it gains its strictest and most proper meaning by that reference: see ver. 11. He is the occasion, and His glory the end, of creation’s corruptibility) Him who made it subject (i.e. God.
Chrys., al., interpret it of Adam, who was the occasion of its being subjected; and at first sight the acc. with διὰ seems to favour this. But I very much doubt whether this view can be borne out. For (1) does not ὑποτάξαντα imply a conscious act of intentional subjugation, and not merely an unconscious occasioning of the subjugation? Thus we have it said of God, ref. 1 Cor., πάντα γὰρ ὑπέταξεν ὑπὸ τοὺς πόδας αὐτοῦ· ὅταν δὲ κ.τ.λ., δῆλον ὅτι ἐκτὸς τοῦ ὑποτάξαντος αὐτῷ τὰ πάντα. And (2) the acc. aft. διὰ is in reality no reason against this. He is speaking of the originating cause of this subjection, not of the efficient means of it. He says that creation was not subjected ἑκοῦσα, i.e. διὰ τὸ θέλημα ἑαυτῆς, but διὰ τὸν ὑποτάξαντα. At the same time such a way of putting it, removing as it were the supreme will of God to a wider distance from corruption and vanity, and making it not so much the worker as the occasion of it, as well as this indefinite mention of Him, is quite intelligible on the ground of that reverential awe which so entirely characterizes the mind and writings of the Apostle. If the occasion pointed at by ὑποτάξαι be required, I should hardly fix it at the Fall of man, but at his creation, in the eternal counsels,—when he was made capable of falling, liable to change.
The explanation of ὁ ὑποτάξας as meaning ‘the devil’ (Locke, al.), hardly needs refutation. See Matthew 10:28, and note),—in (‘on condition of,’ ‘in a state of,’ see ch. 4:18, and note on ἐφʼ ᾧ, ch. 5:12) hope (ἐπʼ ἐλπίδι must not be joined with ὑποτάξαντα, because then the ἐλπίς becomes the hope of the ὑποτάξας,—but with ὑπετάγη, being the hope of the ὑποταγεῖσα), because (not ‘that,’ after ἐλπίς,—for then it is not likely that αὐτὴ ἡ κτίσις would be so emphatically repeated: the clause now announces a new fact, and thus the emphasis is accounted for. To suppose the whole clause subjective to the ἐλπίς, would be to attribute to the yearnings of creation, intelligence and rationality,—consciousness of itself and of God) the creation itself also (not only we, the sons of God, but even creation itself) shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption (its subjection to the law of decay, see Hebrews 2:15) into (pregnant: shall be delivered from, &c., and admitted into) the freedom of the glory (beware of the fatal hendiadys: ‘the freedom of the glory’ is not in any sense = ‘the glorious freedom;’ in the latter, ‘glorious’ is merely an epithet whereby the freedom is characterized, as in ‘His rest shall be glorious:’ in the former the freedom is described as consisting in, belonging to, being one component part of, the glorified state of the children of God: and thus the thought is carried up to the state to which the freedom belongs) of the children (τέκνων and not νἱῶν here, perhaps as embracing God’s universal family of creation, admitted, each in their share, to a place in incorruptibility and glory).
22.] For we know (said of an acknowledged and patent fact, see ch. 2:2; 3:19; 7:14) that the whole creation groans together and travails together (not, groans and travails with us or with mankind, which would render the οὐ μόνον δὲ ἀλλά of the next verse superfluous. On the figure in συνωδίνει see John 16:21, note) [until now (i.e.] up to this time = from the beginning till now: no reference to time future, because οἴδαμεν γάρ expresses the results of experience).
23.] The text here is in inextricable confusion (see var. read.), but the sense very little affected. But (moreover) not only (the creation), but even ourselves, possessing (not ‘who possess,’ οἱ ἔχοντες, but ‘though we possess’) the firstfruit of the Spirit (i.e. the indwelling and influences of the Holy Spirit here, as an earnest of the full harvest of His complete possession of us, πνεῦμα and σάρξ and ψυχή, hereafter. That this is the meaning, seems evident from the analogy of St. Paul’s imagery regarding the Holy Spirit: he treats of Him as an earnest and pledge given to us, Ephesians 1:14; 2Corinthians 1:22; 2Corinthians 5:5, and of His full work in us as the efficient means of our glorification hereafter, ver. 11; 2Corinthians 3:18. Various other renderings are,—(1) ‘the first outpouring of the Spirit,’ in point of time,—Wetst., Reiche, Kölln., Mey., al.,—which would be irrelevant: (2) ‘the highest gifts of the Spirit,’ as the Schmidts, al.
The gen. πν. may be partitive or subjective:—the firstfruit of the Spirit,—which Spirit is the harvest,—or the firstfruit of the Spirit,—which the Spirit gives:—or even in apposition, the firstfruit of the Spirit, i.e. which consists in (the gift of) the Spirit. I prefer the first, from analogy—the Spirit being generally spoken of as given, not as giving,—and God as the Giver), even we ourselves (repeated for emphasis, and ἡμεῖς inserted to involve himself and his fellow-workers in the general description of the last clause. Some (Wolf, Kölln.) have imagined the Apostles only to be spoken of: some, that the Apostles are meant in one place, and all Christians in the other) groan within ourselves, awaiting the fulness of [the (or,] our) adoption (ἀπεκδ., as above, ver. 19, but even more strongly here, ‘wait out,’ ‘wait for the end of.’ Our adoption is come already, ver. 15, so that we do not wait for it, but for the full manifestation of it, in our bodies being rescued from the bondage of corruption and sin. This which in Gr. is expressed by the verb, in Eng. must be joined to the substantive. The omission of the art. before νἱοθ. is probably on account of its preceding its verb,—νἱοθ. ἀπεκδ. = ἀπεκδ. τὴν υἱοθ., for emphasis’ sake) the redemption (in apposition with νἱοθ., or rather with the fulness of sense implied in νἱοθ. ἀπεκδ., q. d. ‘expecting that full and perfect adoption which shall consist in …’) of our body (not, ‘rescue from our body,’ as Erasm., Le Clerc, Reiche, Fritz., al.,—which though allowable in grammar,—see Hebrews 9:15,—is inconsistent with the doctrine of the change of the vile and mortal into the glorious and immortal body,—Philippians 3:21; 2Corinthians 5:2-4,—but the (entire) redemption,—rescue,—-of the body from corruption and sin).
24, 25.] For (confirmation of the last assertion, proving hope to be our present state of salvation)—in hope were we (not, ‘are we,’ nor ‘have we been’) saved: i.e. our first apprehension of, and appropriation to ourselves of, salvation which is by faith in Christ, was effected in the condition of hope: which hope (Thol.) is in fact faith in its prospective attitude,—that faith which is ὑπόστασις ἐλπιζομένων, Hebrews 11:1. The dat. ἐλπίδι is not a dat. of reference,—‘according to hope,’—but of the form or condition. Now hope that is seen (the object or fulfilment of which is present and palpable) is not hope: for that which any one sees, why does he [also (or, at all)] hope for? If καί is to stand in the text, it conveys, after an interrogative word, a sense of the utter superfluity of the thing questioned about, as being irrelevant, and out of the question. ‘Qui interrogat τί χρὴ προσδοκᾷν; exspectat aliquid, sed dubius est quid eveniat. Qui interrogat τί χρὴ καὶ προσδοκᾷν; desperat de salute, nec eam usquam exspectari posse existimat.’ Bremi in Demosth. Phil. i. 46, cited in Hartung, Partikellehre, i. 137.
25.] But if that which we do not see, we hope for, with patience we wait for it. Patience (endurance) is the state, in which,—through which as a medium,—our waiting takes place: hence διʼ ὑπομονῆς, as ἔγραψα ὑμ. διὰ πολλῶν δακρύων, 2Corinthians 2:4.
26.] Likewise (another help to our endurance, co-ordinate with the last—our patience is one help to it, but not the only one) the Spirit also (the Holy Spirit of God) helps our weakness (not, helps us to bear our weakness, as if the weakness were the burden, which the Spirit lifts for and with us,—but, helps our weakness,—us who are weak, to bear the burden of ver. 23. And this weakness is not only inability to pray aright, which is only an example of it, but general weakness. This has been seen, and the reading consequently altered to the plural, which was at first perhaps a marginal gloss). For (example of the help above mentioned;—the τό binding together the clause,—see reff.,—and here implying ‘exempli gratiâ,’—‘for this viz. what to &c.’) what we should pray as we ought (two things;—what we should pray,—the matter of our prayer;—and how we should pray it,—the form and manner of our prayer) we know not: but the Spirit itself (Thol. remarks,—αὐτό brings into more prominence the idea of the πνεῦμα, so as to express of what dignity our Intercessor is,—an Intercessor who knows best what our wants are) intercedes (ὑπέρ here does not intensify the verb, as in ὑπερνικᾷν and the like, and as Œ, Erasm., Luth., Bengel, render it,—but implies the advocacy,—‘convenire aliquem super negotio alterius,’ as Grot.,—to express which the ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν of the rec. has been inserted) with groanings which cannot be expressed:—i.e. the Holy Spirit of God dwelling in us, knowing our wants better than we, Himself pleads in our prayers, raising us to higher and holier desires than we can express in words, which can only find utterance in sighings and aspirations: see next verse. So De W., Thol., Olsh. Chrys. (Hom, xiv., p. 586) interprets it of the χάρισμα of prayer—and adds ὁ γὰρ τοιαύτης καταξιωθεὶς χάριτος, ἑστὼς μετὰ πολλῆς τῆς κατανύξεως, μετὰ πολλῶν τῶν στεναγμῶν τῶν κατὰ διάνοιαν τῷ θεῷ προσπίπτων, τὰ συμφέροντα πᾶσιν ᾔτει:—similarly Œc. and Theophyl. Calv. understands, that the Spirit suggests to us the proper words of acceptable prayer, which would otherwise have been unutterable by us: and similarly Beza, Grot.
ἀλαλήτοις may bear three meanings—1, unspoken: 2, that does not speak,—mute (see LXX, Job 38:14; Sir. 18:33 compl.): 3, that cannot be spoken. The analogy of verbals in -τος in the N. T. favours the latter meaning: compare ἀνεκδιήγητος, 2Corinthians 9:15,—ἄῤῥητος, 2Corinthians 12:4,—ἀνεκλάλητος, 1Peter 1:8 (Thol.).
Macedonius gathered from this verse that the Holy Spirit is a creature, and inferior to God, because He prays to God for us. But as Aug. Tract. vi. in Joan. 2, vol. iii. p. 1425, remarks, ‘non Spiritus Sanctus in semetipso apud semetipsum in illa Trinitate gemit, sed in nobis gemit, quia gemere nos facit.’ No intercession in heaven is here spoken of, but a pleading in us by the indwelling Spirit, of a nature above our comprehension and utterance.
27.] But (opposed to ἀλαλήτοις—‘though unutterable by us’) He who searcheth the hearts (God) knoweth what is the mind (intent, or bent, as hidden in those sighs) of the Spirit. A difficulty presents itself in the rendering of the next clause. If ὅτι be causal, because He (the Spirit) pleads for the saints according to the will of God, it would seem that οἶδεν must bear the meaning ‘approves,’ otherwise the connexion will not be apparent; and so Calv. and Rückert have rendered it. Hence Grot., Reiche, Meyer, Fritz. render ὅτι, ‘that,’ and construe,—‘knows what is the mind of the Spirit,’—that He pleads with God (so Reiche and Fritz., and Winer, edn. 6, § 49. d, for κατὰ θ.) for the saints: justifying the repetition of θεόν, implied before, by 1John 4:8, ὁ μὴ ἀγαπῶν οὐκ ἔγνω τὸν θεόν, ὅτι ὁ θεὸς ἀγάπη ἐστίν. But I must confess that the other rendering seems to me better to suit the context: and I do not see that the ordinary meaning of οἶδεν need be changed. The assurance which we have that God the Heart-Searcher interprets the inarticulate sighings of the Spirit in us, is,—not strictly speaking, His Omniscience,—but the fact that the very Spirit who thus pleads, does it κατὰ θεόν,—in pursuance of the divine purposes and in conformity with God’s good pleasure. So that, as its place before the verb would suggest, κατὰ θεόν is emphatic, and furnishes the reason of the οἶδεν. A minor objection against the explicative ὅτι is, that we have οἴδαμεν ὅτι immediately following.
All these pleadings of the Spirit are heard and answered, even when inarticulately uttered; we may extend the same comforting assurance to the imperfect and mistaken verbal utterances of our prayers, which are not themselves answered to our hurt, but the answer is given to the voice of the Spirit which speaks through them, which we would express, but cannot. Compare 2Corinthians 12:7-10, for an instance in the Apostle’s own case.
28.] Having given an example, in prayer, how the Spirit helps our weakness, and out of our ignorance and discouragement brings from God an answer of peace, he now extends this to all things—all circumstances by which the Christian finds himself surrounded. These may seem calculated to dash down hope, and surpass patience; but we know better concerning them. But (the opposition seems most naturally to apply to ver. 22, the groaning and travailing of all creation) we know (as a point of the assurance of faith) that to those who love God (a stronger designation than any yet used for believers) all things (every event of life, but especially, as the context requires, those which are adverse. To include, with Aug. de Corrept. et Grat., c. ix. (24), vol. x. pt. i. p. 930, the sins of believers in this πάντα, as making them ‘humiliores et doctiores,’ is manifestly to introduce an element which did not enter into the Apostle’s consideration; for he is here already viewing the believer as justified by faith, dwelt in by the Spirit, dead to sin) work together (συνεργεῖ, absolute, or ἀλλήλοις implied: not, ‘work together for good with those who love God,’—‘loving God’ being a ‘working for good:’ which, though upheld by Thol., seems to me harsh, and inconsistent with the emphatic position of τοῖς ἀγ. τ. θ. Surely also in that case πάντα would have been τὰ πάντα, all things, as one party working, set over against οἱ ἀγαπῶντες τ. θ., the other party working: whereas πάντα συνεργεῖ gives rather the sense of all things co-operating one with another.
If the reading of be adopted, we should understand either (1) that God causeth all things to work, &c.: taking συνέργει as from συνέργω, concludo: or (2) that, as Syr. renders it, “in every thing He helpeth them for good.” But in this last case, we should require τὰ πάντα) for (towards, to bring about) good (their eternal welfare;—the fulfilment of the purpose of the ἀγάπη τ. θεοῦ ἡ ἐν χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τ. κυρ. ἡμῶν, ver. 39),—to those who are called (not only invited, but effectually called—see below) according to (His) purpose.
In this further description the Apostle designates the believers as not merely loving God, but being beloved by God. The divine side of their security from harm is brought out, as combining with and ensuring the other. They are sure that all things work for their good, not only because they love Him who worketh all things, but also because He who worketh all things hath loved and chosen them, and carried them through the successive steps of their spiritual life. The calling here and elsewhere spoken of by the Apostle (compare especially ch. 9:11) is the working, in men, of “the everlasting purpose of God whereby before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation.” Art. X. of the Church of England. To specify the various ways in which this calling has been understood, would far exceed the limits of a general commentary. It may suffice to say, that on the one hand, Scripture bears constant testimony to the fact that all believers are chosen and called by God,—their whole spiritual life in its origin, progress, and completion, being from Him:—while on the other hand its testimony is no less precise that He willeth all to be saved, and that none shall perish except by wilful rejection of the truth. So that, on the one side, God’s sovereignty,—on the other, man’s free will,—is plainly declared to us. To receive, believe, and act on both these, is our duty, and our wisdom. They belong, as truths, no less to natural than to revealed religion: and every one who believes in a God must acknowledge both. But all attempts to bridge over the gulf between the two are futile in the present imperfect condition of man. The very reasonings used for this purpose are clothed in language framed on the analogies of this lower world, and wholly inadequate to describe God regarded as He is in Himself. Hence arises confusion, misapprehension of God, and unbelief. I have therefore simply, in this commentary, endeavoured to enter into the full meaning of the sacred text, whenever one or other of these great truths is brought forward; not explaining either of them away on account of possible difficulties arising from the recognition of the other, but recognizing as fully the elective and predestinating decree of God where it is treated of, as I have done, in other places, the free will of man. If there be an inconsistency in this course, it is at least one in which the nature of things, the conditions of human thought, and Scripture itself, participate, and from which no Commentator that I have seen, however anxious to avoid it by extreme views one way or the other, has been able to escape. See, for a full treatment of the subject, Tholuck’s Comm. in loc.
29, 30.] The Apostle now goes backward from κλητοῖς, to explain how this calling came about. It sprung from God’s fore-knowledge, co-ordinate with His fore-determination of certain persons (to be) conformed to the image of His Son, that Christ might be exalted as the Head of the great Family of God. These persons, thus foreknown and predetermined, He, in the course of His Providence actually, but in His eternal decree implicitly, called, bringing them through justification to glory;—and all this is spoken of as past, because to Him who sees the end from the beginning,—past, present, and future are not, but all is accomplished when determined.
Because whom He foreknew (but in what sense? This has been much disputed: the Pelagian view,—‘eos quos prœsciverat credituros,’ is taken by Orig., Chrys., Œc., Theophyl., Augustine (prop. 55, in Ep. ad Rom. vol. iii. p. 2076), , Erasm. in paraphrase, Calov., Reiche, Meyer, Neander, and others; the sense of fore-loved, by Erasm. in commentary, Grotius, Estius, the Schmidts, &c.: that of fore-decreed, by Thol. edn. 1, and Stuart,—which however Thol. in subsequent editions suspects to be ungrammatical without some infinitive following, and prefers a sense combining foreknowledge and recognition-as-His:—that of elected, adopted as His sons, by Calvin,—‘Dei autem præcognitio, cujus hic Paulus meminit, non nuda est præscientia, ut stulte fingunt quidam imperiti, sed adoptio qua filios suos ab improbis semper discrevit,’—Rückert, De Wette, al. That this latter is implied, is certain: but I prefer taking the word in the ordinary sense of foreknew, especially as it is guarded from being a ‘nuda præscientia’ by what follows: see below and Galatians 4:9), He also fore-ordained (His foreknowledge was not a mere being previously aware how a series of events would happen: but was co-ordinate with, and inseparable from, His having pre-ordained all things) conformed (i.e. to be conformed) to the image of His Son (the dat. and gen. are both found after words like σύμμορφος; compare σύμφυτος, ch. 6:5.
The image of Christ here spoken of is not His moral purity, nor His sufferings, but as in 1Corinthians 15:49, that entire form, of glorification in body and sanctification in spirit, of which Christ is the perfect pattern, and all His people shall be partakers. To accomplish this transformation in us is the end, as regards us, of our election by God; not merely to rescue us from wrath. Compare 1John 3:2, 1John 3:3; Philippians 3:21: and on the comprehensive meaning of μορφή, Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7,—where it expresses both ‘the form of God’ in which Christ was, and ‘the form of a servant’ in which He became incarnate), that He might (or may, as Calv., but the reference in the aorist is to the past decree of God) be firstborn among many brethren (i.e. that He might be shewn, acknowledged to be, and glorified as the Son of God, pre-eminent among those who are by adoption through Him the sons of God. This is the further end of our election, as regards Christ: His glorification in us, as our elder Brother and Head):
30.] but whom He fore-ordained, those he also called (in making the decree, He left it not barren, but provided for those circumstances, all at His disposal, by which such decree should be made effectual in them.
ἐκάλεσεν, supply, εἰς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ βασιλείαν καὶ δόξαν 1Thessalonians 2:12; other expressions are found in 1Corinthians 1:9; 2Thessalonians 2:14; 1Timothy 6:12; 1Peter 5:10): and whom He called, these He also justified (the Apostle, remember, is speaking entirely of God’s acts on behalf of the believer: he says nothing now of that faith, through which this justification is, on his part, obtained): but whom He justified, them He also glorified (He did not merely, in His premundane decree, acquit them of sin, but also clothe them with glory: the aorist ἐδόξασεν being used, as the other aorists, to imply the completion in the divine counsel of all these, which are to us, in the state of time, so many successive steps,—simultaneously and irrevocably. So we have the perfect in John 17:10, John 17:22).
31-39.] The Christian has no reason to fear, but all reason to hope; for nothing can separate him from God’s love in Christ.
31.] What then shall we say to these things (what answer can the hesitating or discouraged find to this array of the merciful acts of God’s love on behalf of the believer)? If God is for us (and this He has been proved to be, vv. 28-30,—in having foreknown, predestinated, called, justified, glorified us), who (is) against us? 32
32.] (God) Who even (taking one act as a notable example out of all) did not spare His own Son (His own,—His υἱὸς μονογενής, the only one of God’s sons who is One with Him in nature and essence, begotten of Him before all worlds. No other sense of ἰδίου will suit its position here, in a clause already made emphatic by γε, in consequence of which whatever epithet is fixed to υἱοῦ must partake of the emphasis), but delivered Him up (not necessarily εἰς θάνατον only, but generally, as ἔδωκεν, John 3:16: ‘largitus est, quem sibi retinere poterat,’ as Tholuck, from Winer) on behalf of us all (so that every one of us believers, even the most afflicted, has an equal part in Him. Of others, nothing is said here), how shall He not (how can it be that He will not) also with Him (in consequence of and in analogy with this His greatest gift: it is a question ‘a majori ad minus’) give freely to us all things (all that we need or hope for; or even more largely, all created things for ours, to subserve our good, and work together for us: compare 1Corinthians 3:22)?
33.] The punctuation of these verses is disputed. Many (Aug., Ambr., Reiche, Köllner, Olsh., Meyer, De Wette, and Griesb., Knapp, Lachmann) follow, in vv. 33, 34, the undoubted form of ver. 35, and place an interrogation after each clause, as in the text; while Luther, Beza, Grot., Wolf, Tholuck, al., make θεὸς ὁ δικ. and χριστὸς ὁ ἀποθ. κ.τ.λ. the reply to and rejection of the questions preceding them. The former method is preferable, as preserving the form of ver. 35, and involving no harshness of construction, which the other does, in the case of χριστός followed by the two participles.
Who shall lay (τι) any charge against the elect of God (ἐγκαλέω usually with a dat. see reff.)? Shall God (ἐγκαλέσει), who justifies them (Chrys. strikingly says, οὐκ εἶπε “θεὸς ὁ ἀφεὶς ἁμαρτήματα,” ἀλλʼ ὃ πολλῷ μεῖζον ἦν θεὸς ὁ δικαιῶν. ὅταν γὰρ ἡ τοῦ δικαστοῦ ψῆφος δίκαιον ἀποφήνῃ, καὶ δικαστοῦ τοιούτου, τίνος ἄξιος ὁ κατηγορῶν; Hom. xv. p. 597)? Who is he that condemns them (the pres. part. as expressing the official employment, ‘is their accuser,’ is better than the fut., as corresponding more closely with δικαιῶν)? (Is it) Christ who died, yea who rather is also risen, who also is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us? “All the great points of our redemption are ranged together, from the death of Christ to His still enduring intercession, as reasons for negativing the question above.” De W.
35.] Who (i.e. what: but masc. for uniformity with vv. 33, 34) shall separate us from the love of Christ? Is this (1) our love to Christ, or (2) Christ’s love to us, or (3) our sense of Christ’s love to us? The first of these is held by Origen, Chrys., Theodoret, Ambr., Erasm., al. But the difficulty of it lies in consistently interpreting ver. 37, where not our endurance in love to Him, but our victory by means of His love to us, is alleged. And besides, it militates against the conclusion in ver. 39, which ought certainly to respond to this question. The third meaning is defended by Calvin. But the second, as maintained by Beza, Grot., Est., al., Thol., Reiche, Meyer, De Wette, appears to me the only tenable sense of the words. For, having shewn that God’s great love to us is such that none can accuse nor harm us, the Apostle now asserts the permanence of that love under all adverse circumstances—that none such can affect it,—nay more, that it is by that love that we are enablea to obtain the victory over all such adversities. And finally he expresses his persuasion that no created thing shall ever separate us from that love, i.e. shall ever be able to pluck us out of the Father’s hand.
36.] The quotation here expresses,—‘all which things befall us, as they befell God’s saints of old,—and it is no new trials to which we are subjected:—What, if we verify the ancient description?’
37.] But (negation of the question θλῖψις.… μάχαιρα;) in all these things we are far the conquerors (hardly, ‘more than conquerors:’ the ὑπέρ intensifies the degree of νικᾷν, as in ὑπερπερισσεύειν and the like, but does not express a superiority over νικᾷν) through Him who loved us (i.e. so far from all these things separating us from His love, that very love has given us a glorious victory over them).
The reading διὰ τὸν ἀγαπήσαντα ἡμᾶς would amount to the same in meaning:—‘on account of Him who loved us’ implying, as in vv. 11, 20, that He is the efficient cause of the result.
It is doubted whether ‘He who loved us’ be the Father, or our Lord Jesus Christ. This is, I think, decided by τῷ ἀγαπῶντι ἡμᾶς καὶ λούσαντι ἡμᾶς.… ἐν τῷ αἵματι αὐτοῦ, Revelation 1:5. The use of such an expression as a title of our Lord in a doxology, makes it very probable that where unexplained, as here, it would also designate Him.
38.] For I am persuaded (a taking up and amplifying of the ὑπερνικῶμεν—our victory is not only over these things, but Idare assert it over greater and more awful than these) that neither death, nor life (well explained by De W. as the two principal possible states of man, and not as = ‘any thing dead or living,’ as Calvin and Koppe), nor angels, nor principalities (whether good or bad; ἀρχή is used of good, Colossians 1:16; Colossians 2:15 (see note); of bad (1Corinthians 15:24?), Ephesians 6:12; here, as Ephesians 1:21, generally.
ἄγγελοι, absolutely, seems never to be used of bad angels: if it here means good angels, there is no objection, as Stuart alleges, to the rhetorical supposition that they might attempt this separation, any more than to that of an angel from heaven preaching another gospel, Galatians 1:8), nor things present nor things to come (no vicissitudes of time), nor powers (some confusion has evidently crept into the arrangement. Syr. reads, οὔτ. ἀρχαὶ οὔτ. ἐξουσίαι οὔτ. ἐνεστ. οὔτ. μέλλ. οὔτ. δυνάμεις οὔτ. ἄγγελοι; Basil, οὔτε ἄγγ. οὔτ. ἀρχ. οὔτ. ἐξους. οὔτ. δυνάμεις οὔτ. ἐνεστ. οὔτ. μέλλ I follow, with Griesb., Lachm., Tischdf., the very strong consent of the ancient mss.), nor height nor depth (no extremes of space), nor any other created thing (κτίσις cannot here be the whole creation, as Chrys.,—ὃ λέγει τοιοῦτόν ἐστιν· εἰ καὶ ἄλλη τοσαύτη κτίσις ἦν ὅση ἡ ὁρωμένη, ὅση ἡ νοητή, οὐδὲν ἄν με τῆς ἀγάπης ἐκείνης ἀπέστησε,—but any creature, such as are all the things named) shall be able to sever us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (here plainly enough God’s love to us in Christ,—to us, as we are in Christ, to us, manifested in and by Christ).