Romans 8:8
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) So then . . .—Rather, and. Neither can it be expected that those who are absorbed in the things of sense should be able to please God.

Romans 8:8. So then, &c. — The inference to be drawn from the principles just laid down, is, they that are in the flesh — In the sense explained in the preceding verses, and especially Romans 7:5, where see the notes; they who are under the government of the flesh, of their animal appetites and passions, or of their corrupt nature; they who are carnally minded; cannot please God — Namely, while they continue so, or, till they be justified and regenerated. He means, they are not in a state of acceptance with God; nor do their ways, their tempers, words, and works, please him, whatever ceremonial precepts they may observe. An important and alarming declaration this, which it concerns all the professors of Christianity maturely to consider and lay to heart; and particularly those who content themselves with a form of godliness, without the power; with an attendance on outward ordinances, and the use of the external means of grace, and give themselves no concern either about the remission of their past sins, or the renovation of their sinful nature; but remain earthly and sensual in their desires, cares, and pursuits, or carnally minded, which is death.8:1-9 Believers may be chastened of the Lord, but will not be condemned with the world. By their union with Christ through faith, they are thus secured. What is the principle of their walk; the flesh or the Spirit, the old or the new nature, corruption or grace? For which of these do we make provision, by which are we governed? The unrenewed will is unable to keep any commandment fully. And the law, besides outward duties, requires inward obedience. God showed abhorrence of sin by the sufferings of his Son in the flesh, that the believer's person might be pardoned and justified. Thus satisfaction was made to Divine justice, and the way of salvation opened for the sinner. By the Spirit the law of love is written upon the heart, and though the righteousness of the law is not fulfilled by us, yet, blessed be God, it is fulfilled in us; there is that in all true believers, which answers the intention of the law. The favour of God, the welfare of the soul, the concerns of eternity, are the things of the Spirit, which those that are after the Spirit do mind. Which way do our thoughts move with most pleasure? Which way go our plans and contrivances? Are we most wise for the world, or for our souls? Those that live in pleasure are dead, 1Ti 5:6. A sanctified soul is a living soul; and that life is peace. The carnal mind is not only an enemy to God, but enmity itself. The carnal man may, by the power of Divine grace, be made subject to the law of God, but the carnal mind never can; that must be broken and driven out. We may know our real state and character by inquiring whether we have the Spirit of God and Christ, or not, ver. 9. Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Having the Spirit of Christ, means having a turn of mind in some degree like the mind that was in Christ Jesus, and is to be shown by a life and conversation suitable to his precepts and example.So then - It follows; it leads to this conclusion.

They that are in the flesh - They who are unrenewed sinners; who are following supremely the desires of the flesh; Romans 7:18. Those are meant here who follow fleshly appetites and desires, and who are not led by the Spirit of God.

Cannot please God - That is, while they are thus in the flesh; while they thus pursue the desires of their corrupt nature, they cannot please God. But this affirms nothing respecting their ability to turn from this course, and to pursue a different mode of life. That is a different question. A child may be obstinate, proud, and disobedient; and while in this state, it may be affirmed of him that he cannot please his parent. But whether he might not cease to be obstinate, and become obedient, is a very different inquiry; and the two subjects should never be be confounded. It follows from this,

(1) That those who are unrenewed are totally depraved, since in this state they cannot please God.

(2) that none of their actions while in this state can be acceptable to him, since he is pleased only with those who are spiritually minded.

(3) that those who are in this state should turn from it without delay; as it is desirable that every man should please God.

(4) that if the sinner does not turn from his course, he will be ruined.

With his present character he can never please him; neither in health nor sickness; neither in life nor death; neither on earth nor in hell. He is engaged in hostility against God; and if he does not himself forsake it, it will be endless, and involve his soul in all the evils of a personal, and direct, and eternal warfare with the Lord Almighty.

8. So then—nearly equivalent to "And so."

they that are in—and, therefore, under the government of

the flesh cannot please God—having no obediential principle, no desire to please Him.

So then; this verse is a consectary, or it follows from that which went before.

They that are in the flesh; not they which are married, as a pope once expounded it; the next verse refels such an absurd conception; but they that are carnal and unregenerate; the same with those who, in Romans 8:5, are said to be after the flesh.

Cannot please God; neither they, nor any thing they do, is pleasing unto him; their best works are dead works, and silken sins (as one expresseth it): it must be understood with this limitation, so long as they continue in such a state: see Psalm 5:4,5 Heb 11:6. So then they that are in the flesh,.... They that are in the flesh are the same who are said to be after it, Romans 8:5, and are there described. Such

cannot please God; men, whilst unregenerate, and as such, cannot please God; for though the persons of God's elect are wellpleasing to him always, as considered in Christ, in whom they are loved with an everlasting love, and were chosen in him, and all provisions grace and glory made for them in him; yet as considered in themselves, and whilst in the flesh, do not please him; for they are straying from him, are alienated from his life, are destitute of all grace, and particularly faith, without which it is impossible to please him; are filthy and unclean, and hence, whilst such have no enjoyment of him, or communion with him; wherefore he sends his Spirit to work in them that which is wellpleasing in his sight: but this is not to be understood so much of persons, and their non-acceptableness to God, as of the inability of unregenerate men to obtain the good will of God, or make their peace with him; which they have no inclination to, being enmity against him; and were they inclined to it, know not how to go about it; nor can they draw nigh to God to treat with him about terms of peace; nor can they do that which can procure peace; Christ is the only person that can, make peace, and has done it: or rather, of the impotency of natural men to do anything which pleasing in the sight of God. There are many things which are pleasing to him, such as prayer, praise, giving of alms, keeping his commandments, and walking in his ways; but these unregenerate men cannot do in any acceptable manner to God; for they are without the Spirit, without Christ, without faith; and in all they do have no view to the glory of God: they have neither grace, nor strength, nor right principles, nor right ends.

{10} So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

(10) The conclusion. Therefore they that walk after the flesh cannot please God: by which it follows that they are not grafted into Christ.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Romans 8:8. Δέ] is not put for οὖν (Beza, Calvin, Koppe, and others; comp. also Rückert and Reiche), but is the simple μεταβατικόν (autem), which, after the auxiliary clauses τῷ γ. νόμῳδύναται, leads over to a relation corresponding to the main proposition τὸ φρ. τ. σάρκ. ἔχθρα εἰς Θεόν, and referring to the persons in the concrete. The propriety of this connection will at once be manifest if τῷ γ. νόμῳδύναται be read more rapidly (like a parenthesis). According to Hofmann, the progress of thought is now supposed to advance from the condemnation of sin to the freedom from death. But such a scheme corresponds neither with the preceding, in which sin and death were grouped together (Romans 8:2; Romans 8:6), nor with what follows, where in the first instance there is no mention of death, and it is only in Romans 8:10 f. that the special point is advanced of the raising from the dead.

ἐν σαρκί] is in substance the same as κατὰ σάρκα in Romans 8:5; but the form of the conception is: those who are in the flesh as the ethical life-element, in which they subsist, and which is the opposite of the εἶναι ἐν πνεύματι in Romans 8:9, and ἐν Χριστῷ in Romans 8:1. Comp. on Romans 7:5. The one excludes the other, and the former, as antagonistic to God, makes the ἀρέσαι Θεῷ (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:1) an impossibility.8. So then] Lit. But; and perhaps better thus. The opposition is to the idea implied by the previous clauses of a condition which can love and submit.

in the flesh] Of course in the moral sense of “the flesh,” and as being not merely beset by it, but characterized and determined by it. Practically the phrase = “after the flesh” (Romans 8:4). The difference in idea is that between a condition and the resulting action.—It is clear that “they that are in the flesh” means “all men before special grace.” For the only other condition of the soul contemplated by St Paul is the being “in the Spirit,” i.e. actuated and ruled by “the Holy Ghost given unto us.”

cannot please God] See Colossians 1:10 for the bright contrast of the state of grace.—This ver. proves that “the mind of the flesh” is viewed by St Paul as the true, ruling, determining, “mind” of the unregenerate man. It is not only a dangerous element, but that which gives its quality to his whole attitude towards God. He “cannot” (a moral impossibility of course is meant) “please God;” he cannot make God his supreme choice, object, and rule; in short he cannot “love Him with all his mind;” and no other condition of the soul than this can, in the true sense of the word, “please God.” Particular acts, in themselves, He may approve; but not the real attitude of the doer’s soul.Romans 8:8. Δὲ) is ἐπιτατικόν, [employed to give epitasis (endix): i.e. where to an enunciation already stated, there is added some word to give increased emphasis, or an explanation].—ἀρέσαι) ἀρέσκω here, as elsewhere, signifies not only I please, but I am desirous to please, 1 Corinthians 10:33; Galatians 1:10; it is akin to the phrase, to be subject, in the preceding verse.
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