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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 8



Other Authors
Verse 1

(d) Blessed individual process of justified and spirit-guided life, Romans 8:1-17.

1. Therefore now—With the self-surrender in faith to Christ of Romans 8:24, last chapter, deliverance from sin and law ensue, and with justification the Holy Spirit is given as the inspirer of regenerate life. As said above, the apostle here resumes his description of the gospel freedom from law rule, which he had suspended at Romans 7:6.

No condemnation—For justification is acquittal, the opposite of condemnation.

In Christ—(See note on Romans 6:2.)

After the flesh—After the suggestions of the carnal nature.

After the Spirit—After the dictates of the conscience vivified by truth and divine influence.

Verse 2

2. Law—The ruling force. (See note on Romans 7:23.)

Spirit of life— The Divine Spirit, the inspirer and giver of eternal life. Law… death. (See note on Romans 7:23.)

Verse 3

3. Law could not do—Namely, make the righteousness required to be fulfilled in us, (Romans 8:4.) Physical law, having to do with dead matter, secures its own fulfilment; moral law, having to do with free agents, cannot necessarily secure the obedience of the wilfully wicked.

Weak… flesh— Unable to secure its own fulfilment on account of the depraved persistence in disobedience.

God—The nominative to condemned.

Likeness of sinful flesh—He was the reality of human flesh, like unfallen Adam; he was only the likeness of sinful flesh, like fallen Adam.

His own—Emphatic, as Alford remarks; his own, therefore sinless; in contrast to sinful and sin twice named.

For—On account of. God sent his Son, both in sinful likeness and on account of sin, in order to bring us to perfect holiness.

Verse 4

4. Righteousness of the law—The righteousness required by the law, and which the law cannot condemn. This is not an “imputed righteousness,” nor the simple innocence or freedom from guilt included in justification, but an actual and active personal righteousness, energized by the Spirit, and individually, through grace, our own.

Walk… Spirit—(See note on Romans 8:1.) Spirit-guided, justified Christian life is actually and actively holy life.

Verse 5

5. Do mind—Think of, care for.

Things of the flesh—The gratification of purely earthly and selfish ends.

Verse 6

6. Death—Spiritual death in itself, eternal death in its results.

Life and peace—Spiritual life here, eternal life here and hereafter.

Verse 7

7. Carnal mind—Or, rather, carnal minding; not the faculty of mind, but the course or body of carnal thought.

Enmity—The mass of carnal thinking is essential enmity against God. It may claim to revere the greatness and grandeur of the Infinite. But in its carnality it is at opposition against his holy law, even though that law is unseen, (note on Romans 7:9,) and though the opposition is not felt and known by the mind itself; and so it is intrinsic enmity against God. Men may hold a perfect yet unconscious hatred against God.

Not subject—For enmity to God cannot be at the same time subjection to God’s law. The two are opposites, and so far as the one exists the other must cease to exist.

Verse 8

8. Cannot please God—From this a strange theology has inferred that even an unregenerate man’s complete resignation of sin and unregeneracy, and his effort and act of entire submission to God, though required by God, and encouraged by his promise and pardon, cannot be pleasing to God nor accepted by him! This theology declares that men must be regenerate before they can make the self-surrendering act of faith to God! But in truth that act of faith is the precedent condition in order to regeneration. It is after an unregenerate man by God’s help and grace performs the act of faith that regeneration is bestowed. When it is said that an unregenerate man cannot please God, it means an unregenerate man acting after the flesh, that is, in accordance with the unregenerate nature within him. So a disobedient child cannot be pleasing to his parents, nor a dishonest citizen acceptable to the government, that is, as a disobedient child and as a dishonest citizen. But that means not that the disobedient child, as a free agent, cannot renounce his disobedience, and the dishonest resign his dishonesty, and so both become right and acceptable.

Verse 10

10. Body is dead… Spirit is life—We agree with Afford that the physical body is here intended. The indwelling Spirit of Christ not only sanctifies, but will quicken our body with a final glorifying life in the better resurrection. (Hebrews 11:35; Philippians 3:11.) The body is, in spite of regeneration, dead in its unreversed destiny of mortality; but the human spirit is still an immortal life, and the power that raises Jesus will gloriously raise all in whom dwells the spirit of Jesus.

Verse 12

12. Debtors—We owe not to the flesh obedience to its dictates.

Verse 13

13. Die—The fulness of death that arises from carnality.

The body— Analogous to but not identical with the flesh. The very definition of appetites is those desires that spring from the body or physical system. To mortify them is to kill them so far forth as they are enmity to God. The flesh is a depravity not confined to the body, but including the entire tendency to sin.

Verse 14

14. Sons—In a noble and maturer sense than children. Christ is son, but never child ( τεκνον) of God.

Verse 15

15. Again—After having once been emancipated from it.

Spirit of adoption—Being adopted as children into God’s family, God has breathed into us the humble confidence of the child feeling himself at home in his father’s house.

Abba, Father—For the Hebrew and for the Greek our apostle furnishes this blessed word in both languages to indicate that both may claim the same divine paternity.

Verse 16

16. Spirit itself—In its own immediate person.

Beareth witness with— Testifies concurrently with. So that there are two witnesses, the divine and the human, testifying to the one fact.

Children—The Spirit testifies solely to this one fact, our being children of God. This special testimony cannot be quoted for other facts than our own sonship. If a tasteful lady desire to know whether her manners are becoming and graceful she observes herself and draws her conclusion, and that is the testimony of her own taste and consciousness. If, additionally, another person of critical taste assure her that they are so, then she has the testimony of another mind witnessing with her own that her deportment is right. So the Christian by self-inspection and introspection may infer that he has the grace of God; but, additionally, the Divine Spirit surely is able to speak with a voiceless assurance to his consciousness that he is God’s child. That is, God’s Spirit may testify with and to man’s spirit to man’s sonship.

Verse 17

17. Heirs—Entitled by graciously divine right to an eternal inheritance.

Joint heirs with Christ—Who is our elder brother, (Romans 8:29.) And as Christ is sure of his inheritance, then, so long as we are joint with him, there can be no failure for us. But in our case there is a condition yet to be completely fulfilled, namely, the following IF. And this if, implying a contingency lasting as long as our probation, must be presupposed in the whole of this passage, (18-39.) The law of inheritance cannot fail; the scheme of advancement (29, 30) cannot be broken, but we may fall out of it by the way. All these progressive stages belong to us not as physical persons, but as characters, and are forfeited by our persons if the character ceases.

If so be—On this if hangs our eternity.

That—To the divinely established result that.

Glorified together—That glorification with Christ arrived at in Romans 8:30; the ultimate to which our heirship looks.

Verse 18

18. For—In illustration of the glorification just mentioned.

Sufferings— Mentioned as being with Christ in Romans 8:17. Those sufferings are not to be measured with that glorification.

In us—A glory that will be made not only to beam from Christ, but to reveal itself within our celestial bodies. (Colossians 3:4; 1 John 3:2.)

Verses 18-25

(e) Advancing stages to final (collective) glorification of Church and earth, Romans 8:18-25.

Based upon present joyous expectations and gracious aids, the apostle describes the Christian’s glorious future, first, in the present paragraph, as part of the lower creation, and second, (26-32) as part of the blessed kingdom of God.

Verse 19

19. For—In explanation of this inrevealed glory.

Earnest expectation— The expressive Greek word implies an eager stretching forward of the head to watch the future.

The creatureThe created. The Greek word may designate any created thing or being, or the whole creation as one. Hence the term has been a battle-ground for critics, six of whose various opinions are given by Alford as to the present application of the term. Without discussing them in detail we give our own view, which slightly varies from any one of them.

In the present verse Paul applies the word primarily, we think, to himself and his fellow-Christians. He means the creature nature in us, (Romans 8:18,) as part of the creation, yet as human beings, and including essentially all humanity. That the human creature, the creature in humanity, is meant, is clearly evinced by the ascription of personal qualities, as expectation, waiteth willingly. This also consistently continues the subjective style of Romans 8:16-17, where our personal sufferings are contrasted with our own future glory. So Paul (Romans 8:13) uses the word the flesh, and the body, as a general term, indeed, yet now considered specially as ours. As creature we (the suffering us of the last verse) look forward to the promised renovation. This subjective sense continues until in Romans 8:22 Paul momentarily takes in the whole creation, and then returns to his fellow-Christians (and himself) exclusively, (Romans 8:23.)

Manifestation—At the final renovation, the sons of God will be made manifest by their renewal in the glorious likeness of Christ, (Romans 8:30.) For this as creature they wait.

Verse 20

20. To vanity—To a mortal perishableness in contrast both to Adamic immortality and future glorification.

Not willingly—By the primal sentence, against all its own upward aspirations, (Genesis 3:17-19.) The word willingly implies that it is not the material or the animal creation that is described, but the human in general, though the Christian is the special subject.

By reason of him— Said reverentially of God. Man is subjected to vanity under the laws of material nature on account of God’s primeval sentence upon the race for sin. In hope, through a promised renovator, (Genesis 3:15,) of the final renovation.

Verse 21

21. Because—Or, rather, that. In hope that.

The creature itself—Or rather, this same creature, and not merely the successive generations of nature.

Verse 22

22. For—This is true of us Christians, in a measure, not only as human creatures, but as part of the whole creation, so that 22 and 23 are a more explicit statement of the unity herein of the Christian with the creation.

Whole creation—Individual suffering is in unison with universal suffering. All animated nature is groaning. All physical nature is scarred with past convulsions, and puts forth its thorny luxuriance as if groaning under the primeval curse.

Travaileth—Its pains are, however, not merely of death, but also of birth. It is as if nature were a mother struggling to bring forth a fresh and new creation. This is, however, the only intimation that the passage contains of any renovation beyond that of the sons of God. It intimates nothing of an immortality or resurrection of beasts. Of such a renovation of the world, not only the Jews, but other oriental nations, cherished an expectation. Nor does geology, as some suppose, exclude the supposition. That science discloses wondrous revolutions and stages through which the earth has passed in past ages. The most wonderful, surpassing in some respects most of the miracles of Scripture, was the introduction of animal life. And geology reveals some great changes as sudden. Of life it may be said that it was a suspension of all previous laws, by the interposition of a new power in the world. When life forms or enters an organism, the ordinary course of chemical affinities is arrested; when that interposition is withdrawn, “the lower law by which the particles of matter seek their natural affinity resumes its reign.” This seems a shadow of the interposition in nature of the still higher Power by which still higher arrangements will be established, which, though miracles to our present order, will be natural to the new state, and natural as accordant with the laws of God’s universe.

Verse 23

23. Not only they—Rather, it, referring to the whole creation.

Ourselves—What was true of man’s creaturely nature, and even of the whole creation, was true of Paul and his fellow-Christians, with this specialty, that what was in others a waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, was in them something infinitely better, namely, a waiting for the redemption of OUR body.

Verse 24

24. For—The apostle now shows the reason why, according to the law and plan of our probation, this glorious consummation is placed in the distance beyond this scene of groaning and corruption.

We are saved by hope—Our salvation takes place only on condition of our expectation, and hope looks faithfully forward and upward. Such are our probationary requisites, and these in their very nature require distance and an unseen future. (See note on John 16:7-15.)

For hope—The hope-object that is seen, by being present and possessed, is not a hope-object, and so precludes the exertion of hope.

Why—Or rather, how. Hope, and sight or fruition, are incompatible.

Verse 25

25. If… hope… patience—If the distant reward call forth our persistent hope, then patience and perseverance in well doing, and the perfection and fitting of our character for the consummation, ensue.

Verse 26

26. Likewise the Spirit—Likewise, that is in addition to all its other gracious offices in Romans 8:11; Romans 8:16.

Our infirmities—True reading, our infirmity; namely, our ignorant infirmity regarding prayer, mentioned in next clause.

Should pray for—If we look into recorded heathen prayers we find them offered almost exclusively for earthly goods; for goods which may prove our harm and ruin. The spirit of Christianity teaches us to be unsure as to the desirableness of any particular human advantage we might name; teaching us rather to leave such things to God, and to aspire after the only true and sure good, God himself.

Maketh intercession—While Christ maketh intercession for us above, the blessed Spirit frameth our own intercession for us within. His prayer is an inner prayer within our prayer, a silent Divine voice within our voice, the soul of which our prayer is the body.

Groanings… uttered—Groanings not articulated, because pregnant with a meaning too deep for man to shape into words.

Verses 26-30

4. Gracious aids, through the Divinely Foreseen and Accomplished Stages, to the Final Glorification, Romans 8:26-30.

The emphatic passage is Romans 8:29-30, and for it the previous verses prepare. The gracious aids are the helping Spirit, (Romans 8:26,) the concurrence of the Heart-searcher, (Romans 8:27,) and all things in cooperation, (Romans 8:28;) resulting in the final successive stages, (Romans 8:29-30.)

Verse 27

27. He… hearts—As the Spirit knoweth and sympathizeth with our feeble human minds, so that Spirit is in communication with God, the heart-searcher.

Knoweth… the mind—The Spirit inspires our unutterable things; yet God, knowing the mind of the Spirit, knoweth the things unuttered. So is the Spirit a mediator of communion between our spirit and God our father.

Verse 28

28. All things—Not only does the Spirit work in and for us, but when he works all things else cooperate. As the whole creation groaneth together waiting for the renovation of God’s sons, so the whole co-worketh to that glorious consummation.

Love God—And just so far and just so long as they love God. Just so far as their love to God is diminished and sin is committed, just so far is the working of all things lessened and doubtful; and when their love to God ceases, the co-working for good ceases, and they are no longer the called. For it is to the man as a GOD LOVER, not as a blank individual, that these promises are made.

The called—(See note on Romans 1:1.)

His purpose—Of glorifying in Christ the mortal bodies of all true believers, (Romans 8:21.) But the stages of glorification implied in 19-23, as belonging to believers, the apostle now beautifully traces in their divinely established order, from the foreknowledge of God in the past eternity to the consummation in and for the eternity of the future.

Verse 29

29. For—To exemplify and expand the purpose just mentioned. In this verse he states the first and last step; in the next the intermediate successive steps.

Foreknow—This word in itself signifies always to foreknow simply; nothing else. It never signifies, intrinsically, to predetermine, or to love, or to favour beforehand; but always to foreknow or pre-recognise. Yet this foreknowing may take in a special view or phase of the foreknown object.

It may be a favourable or unfavourable phase, and thus the inferential thought is attained of pre-favouring or pre-condemning. But this thought lies not in the foreknowing, but in the aspect, favourable or unfavourable, of the object presented. Here the objects are the human individuals foreknown as meeting the requisite conditions in the successive stages of advancement, and so the individuals meeting the requisitions of the final glorification. If any one individual fails at either stage, he drops from among the so foreknown. And some do drop out at every stage. God calls more than accept the call and become justified; he justifies more than persevere and become glorified. (See note on John 17:2.)

The true idea, then, is to foreknow men as meeting the required conditions of that final glorification; namely, who are finally found among those who love God, (Romans 8:28,) who with patience wait for it, (25,) and who steadfastly endure to the end.

Predestinate—Destinate beforehand, predetermine. From this it is clear, 1. That foreknowledge and predestination are two very different things. Knowledge belongs to the intellect, determination belongs to the will. Foreknowledge is an attribute belonging to the nature of God, pre-determination is an act produced by the free-will of God. 2. Foreknowledge precedes predestination; for God’s nature is antecedent to God’s acts. Did God act without previous knowledge, he would act, like an idiot, in total ignorance. 3. Predestination, so far from being “without foresight,” is truly founded on foreknowledge. It presupposes that all who are elected or predestinated to glory are foreknown as the proper subjects for it according to God’s eternal purpose. 4. Man’s freedom as a free-agent underlies God’s foreknowledge of him, and God’s foreknowledge underlies God’s determination. God’s knowledge is caused by the future act, not the act caused by the knowledge; just as when we look at a man walking, our seeing and knowing his motion is caused by his moving, not his moving caused by our seeing and knowing. So that, in conclusion from the whole, God predestinates to glory only those whom he sees through time and space will finally meet the conditions requisite for that glorification.

Image—Such an image as he presented at the transfiguration on the mount.

Firstborn among many brethren—And thus present a row of glorified brothers, all in the same celestial uniform, with the firstborn at their head.

Verse 30

30. Called—The apostle does not imply that others were not called; for he knew that “many are called but few chosen.” The disobedient to the call are here left out of the account. They exclude or withdraw themselves, voluntarily and freely, from the favourably foreknown and the predestinated.

Mr. Barnes says, “The predestination secures the calling, and the calling secures the justification.” If the apostle himself had so said, it would have been decisive; but that is precisely what he does not say. All Paul says is, that the calling is the requisite condition before the justification, and the justification before the glorification. He asserts that the latter cannot be without the former. It is the called (or some part of them, for “many are called and few chosen”) alone that are justified; it is the justified alone that are glorified.

Whom he called—They being foreknown as complying.

Whom he justified—Upon their faith.

Them he also glorified—Provided they were justified at the moment when the stage of glorification came. If, though once justified, their justification has ceased, they are then not justified, and so cannot be glorified.

It is not the purpose of the apostle, be it specially noted, to show or declare the surety of any particular individual’s infallibly passing through the stages of this scheme, but to show the indestructible and absolute surety of the scheme itself. (See notes on Romans 8:17; Romans 8:28.) It is the fixedness and unfailing surety of the plan of salvation, in order that each one may avail himself of it, that is affirmed; not the surety for the special individual that God’s power is pledged to fasten him into the plan, and to carry him infallibly through. The ark is unconditionally predestined to outride the deluge; but it depends upon our entering and remaining within the ark whether we individually outride the deluge too. All the aids above described are furnished from the Divine side; but man has a selfhood from which he must act, and upon that action it depends whether he finally is included in the saving result.

Mr. Barnes asks, “How would it be a source of consolation to say to them that those whom he predestinated, etc., might fall away and be lost forever?” But, 1. What consolation to tell them that the justified are to be glorified, so long as they are taught never to be sure of their being justified? Preachers of secured perseverance are obliged, in order to prevent in their followers the great presumption of being too sure of final salvation, to cultivate the perpetual doubt of their being Christians at all, and so destroy the full assurance of faith, and upset all the boasted “consolation” of their own doctrine. What consolation to know that Christians will persevere, if I must never know that I am a Christian? 2. To tell the Christian that he may fall away is not of itself consolation, but warning; and warning the Christian needs in the proper place as truly as consolation. And the true place of consolation and of warning is this: fully to know my present acceptance, and equally to fear my future rejection by unfaithfulness. 3. The true consolation from the present passage is its glorious assurance that the plan of salvation is absolutely sure to those who, by persistent faith, intrust themselves to it. We have a sure stronghold to which we can turn. And such is the doctrine of the entire Epistle; sure salvation by faith. But nowhere is it taught that that faith itself is fixed or fastened upon us, or in us. The exercise and continuance of our faith under God’s gracious aids, is our own duty, and our part, as free-agents, in the work of our salvation.

While a large share of the verbs of these two verses express a future as well as a past fact they are uniformly in the past tense, the Greek aorist. (Note on Romans 5:12.) Alford, in his usual ultra-fatalistic style of interpretation, tells us that this is because the whole is completed in the predetermination of God. But why does not Alford explicitly apply the same exegesis to sinned in Romans 5:12, (where see note,) and thus attribute the authorship of sin to God?—a blasphemy which rash thinkers like him are perpetually committing, yet denying. The true view, we think, is, that the apostle’s standpoint in all these uses of the Greek aorist is at the grand consummation of the whole scheme, contemplating it as a series past. (Note on Romans 5:13.)

Verse 31

5. A Paean of Triumph over this Scheme of Human Renovation, Romans 8:31-39.

31. What… then say—There stands the finished structure of human salvation; what can be said to it?

If God—Omitting the italics, (interpolated by the translators,) we have, If God for us, who against us?

The apostle stands like a triumphant herald, and challenges the universe for an opponent to meet this divine champion. Before an infinite defender every finite assailant dwindles into nothing, and the Christian stands alone beneath his omnipotent protector.

Verse 32

32. That God is upon his side the apostle now brings the strongest of all arguments.

Spared not his own Son—The own here is emphatic, like only begotten Son, (John 3:16.)

All things—As comprehensive as the all things of Romans 8:28.

Verse 33

33. Lay… charge—There is one great enemy who is styled preeminently the accuser of the brethren; and he in fact appeared before God himself to bring charge against Job, (Job 1:9,) and he has his human representatives in the world during all ages. And yet the apostle triumphantly proclaims that their charges are no charges at all, and gives his reason.

God… justifieth—Hereby the apostle shows how God is for us, (Romans 8:31.) God justifies us at first in pardoning our sins; and whenever the adversary or his agents bring charges against us he ever repeats his justification; or, rather, God’s perpetual holding us righteous in spite of every calumniator is one continuous justifying act. That same justification holds us clear on earth, defends us against the danger of condemnation in the final judgment, and secures our place forever with the righteous.

Verse 34

34. Condemneth—The reason why there can be no charge is because there can be no condemnation; and the reason why there can be no condemnation is this most conclusive one, Christ that dieth. The penalty of our sins hath been suffered, and the faithful are unpunishable and uncondemnable. He who hath so suffered claims us as his right. To assert this claim he is risen again, and to give decisive authority to his claim he is even at the right hand of God. The image is drawn from the custom of Oriental kings of seating persons of the highest honour at the right side of the throne. So Solomon seated his mother at his own right hand, (1 Kings 2:19,) so Salome desired to place one of her sons at the right hand and the other at the left of the royal Messiah, (Matthew 20:21,) and so the Psalmist seats the Messiah-Jehovah at the right hand of Jehovah, (Psalms 110:1.)

Intercession—So in Hebrews 7:25, we learn that He ever liveth to make intercession for us. So also Hebrews 9:24, and 1 John 2:1. What the precise form of this intercession of the ever living Jesus is we know not. Yet it can be no otherwise than an essential perpetuation of his high priestly prayer in John 17. Though, however, his glorified form kneel not, and no voice be uttered, still his presence, with the history and glory of his death about him, is a perpetual memorial of mercy unto God. His blood has a perpetual voice, speaking better things than the blood of Abel.

Verse 35

35. Who… separate—The apostle now issues his third challenge to the foes of the redeemed. He has called for the accuser, the condemner, and now he summons the separator, sure that none dare appear. He next challenges an entire catalogue of enemies by name and declares the discomfiture of all.

Love of Christ—It is a strange dispute between commentators whether this phrase signifies our love to Christ or Christ’s love to us. We often speak of a person being separated from another’s affection, but whoever heard of a man being separated from his own love to another? Besides, it is God’s and Christ’s maintenance of the cause of the Christian which runs through the entire passage. In the present verse the apostle enumerates a series of earthly or natural foes of the Christian, and in 38 and 39 the supernatural or transcendent.

Nothing, indeed, can separate the believer from Christ; but the man may depart from his faith and cease to be a believer. Nothing can kill the Christian, but he may commit suicide. None can pluck him out of his Father’s hand, but he may leap out of that hand himself. And hence of that one enemy which a man may be to himself the apostle makes no mention in his hostile catalogue.

Tribulation—The apostle now enumerates seven enemies which assail the Christian in vain. Not but that these foes can materially harm him, though they can neither accuse nor condemn him as before God. From their corporeal assaults, even the Divine Protector promises no immunity and no deliverance from their earthly power. But they cannot break, they will brighten, rather, and strengthen the golden chain that fastens the justified to Christ.

Verse 36

36. Written—The quotation, from the Septuagint version of Psalms 44:22, confirms the fact that these foes may attain a temporal triumph. By so quoting the apostle ranks the suffering Christians of his day with the glorious army of martyrs of the Old Testament Church.

Killed all the day—The continued slaughter extends from sunrise to sunset.

Verse 37

37. More than conquerors—The slaughtered sheep are more than victors; or, rather, superabundantly conquerors. The persecutor can butcher them, but they gloriously defeat their persecutor.

Through him— Not even martyrdom is, in itself, a glory and a crown; it is glorious and crowned through Him who gives it all its value.

Verse 38

38. Persuaded—Such assurance does Christianity give me that I rest firmly upon it.

Neither death, nor life—The two potencies of existence; namely, the two stages of human existence, life and death. These are both mighty powers over human destiny. Personified life is armed with terrible dangers; and death is the very king of terrors.

Nor angels, nor principalities—Two potencies of living agents in the supersensible spiritual world.

Angels throughout Scripture are the messengers of God, armed often with divine authorities.

Principalities are the ranks and orders of beings in the background, never appearing to human view, and but dimly presupposed and rarely alluded to in Scripture. So Paul in Colossians 1:16, speaks very indefinitely of thrones, dominions, principalities, powers; and in Ephesians 1:21, principality, power, might, dominion, and every thing named in this world and that to come. All of which intimates that the New Testament, by a glimpse into the spiritual world, authorizes the belief of a great variety of classifications without giving us any distinct description of their nature. They come but very slightly within the range of the redemptive scheme; and so scarce within the limits of the purpose of Scripture revelation.

Nor powers—Perhaps including the grand physical forces of universal nature, known to science, especially to astronomy, in the abstract, but sometimes personified in Scripture as living agencies, and even identified with angels. From the Greek word δυναμεις come our dynamics, dynamical. And then we have a sublime conclusion. Not all the forces, even, that move the astronomic worlds could separate the redeemed from Christ. This is a thought which was not fully taken in by the apostle’s mind, yet his words seem pregnant with it, and legitimately express it to us.

Nor things present, nor things to come—Two potencies of time; embracing the vicissitudes of the present and the unknown revolutions of the future.

Verse 39

39. Nor height, nor depth—Two antithetic potencies of space. The interpretation of heights and depths as equivalent to heaven and hell is scarce commensurate with the apostle’s conception. He designates the opposite extremes of immensity. Height indicates the sublimity of loftiness or grandeur; depth the sublimity of darkness, obscurity, and terror. Both personified suggest limitless power for unknown destruction.

Any other creature—Any other nature or being, save God and the man himself. Only these two (neither of whom are named in the list) can work the terrible separation. The former never will; the dread alternative rests solely in the power of the latter. (See notes on John 17:27, 28.)

So closes the Argument of the apostle, (to be supplemented by the Defence,) winding off and up into a final Anthem. And so we may say that the entire book, as an Argument, is a book of grand climaxes. Over and over again it begins in gloom, struggles through trials, and ends in triumph. Its topic is human ruin and renovation, beginning with the awful first three chapters, and closing with this grand eighth. Then, Abraham begins in Gentilism, and ends in justification. The antithesis of Adam and Christ finishes with abounding grace and eternal life. The struggling convictof chapter seventh finishes in emancipation and glory; and even the coming Defence, starting with the downfall of Israel, ends with a cheering hope of his restoration. (Note on Romans 14:23.)


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Romans 8:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

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