On the Epistle to the Romans

J. N. Darby.

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Romans 8

This deliverance stands in the closest connection with redemption, not so much with regard to forgiveness as with regard to our having died with Christ. We have already seen that there are two main points in redemption: namely, the forgiveness of sins, or justification, and deliverance: liberty before God, and liberty from the yoke of sin in the flesh. Now if we have died with Christ, we have died to sin, and are no longer in the flesh before God. Life in the flesh is no more our position, because Christ, after having died, has become our life. Sin in the flesh is judged, condemned - not forgiven - and that in the death of Christ on the cross. The power of the life of Christ is in me, is my life; yet not only that. Sin in the flesh, which was my torment, is already judged, but in another; so that there is for me no more condemnation on account of the flesh. Death has entered in where this condemnation, the judgment of the flesh, has been executed, and those who are in Christ Jesus have died with Him, so that there is no more condemnation for them. What has happened to Him has happened to us; He died to sin, and the condemnation is passed. This is our condition with respect to sin in the flesh. If the first part of the epistle has shewn clearly how sins are taken away, we find here as clearly how sin in the flesh and condemnation are taken away; yea, for faith the flesh itself is done away with, since we are dead.

352 This condition is described in the first three verses of chapter 8. The Christian is in an entirely new position: he is in Christ. Not only has the grace of God been manifested in the sins of the old man being forgiven, but his position also is an entirely new one; we are redeemed. It does not say, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those whose sins are forgiven," but "to them which are in Christ Jesus." This position is the result of the work of Christ, of redemption. The Christian is delivered with Christ from his position in the flesh because he has died with Him, and has part in the life of the risen and glorified Christ. Thus he no longer stands before God as a child of Adam responsible in the flesh, but as one who has actually, by death, left this position, and who is alive in Christ. The flesh is considered as dead, as condemned, as no more to be seen, but as vanquished in the death of Christ. The Christian is alive in Christ; he is no longer in the flesh. (Compare Galatians 2:19-20.)

The expression, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," in the second verse of our chapter, may appear strange to many readers. It means, I believe, that the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus operates constantly, unceasingly, according to one and the same principle, in order that, since the flesh has been condemned in another, it should be dead in the believer. Through the life of Christ and the Holy Spirit the believer is in Christ. How could there be any more condemnation there? God has already occupied Himself with sin in the flesh at the cross, and now, if one may say so, is done with it. The new life and the Holy Spirit give to the quickened believer his place in Christ; he is redeemed and alive before God in Christ. It is not a question here, as already said, of forgiveness of the sins of the old man, but of a new living position in Christ. This is what is presented in the first three verses of chapter 8.

After that, in chapter 7, the experience of the first position, as well as deliverance through redemption in Christ, and the continuance of the two natures as an actual fact, have been described, the first three verses of chapter 8 give us the new position in Christ in contrast with the position in the flesh, or in the first Adam. In the first verse, no condemnation; in the second, the power of life; in the third, the judgment of sin in the flesh in Christ on the cross. The second verse is characterised by life in Christ according to the power of the Holy Spirit, and that as a principle unceasingly in operation. The judgment of sin in the flesh in the sin-offering of Christ marks the third verse. Sin is, indeed, still there, and, if we are not faithful, if we do not practically bear about with us the dying of the Lord Jesus, it is active in us; we lose communion with God, and dishonour the Lord by our behaviour, in not walking, according to the Spirit of life, worthy of the Lord. But we are no longer under the law of sin, but, having died with Christ, and become partakers of a new life in Him and of the Holy Spirit, we are delivered from this law. We are in a new position, in the second Adam before God, and our normal walk is according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Thus the law of God and its requirements are fulfilled in us. The doctrine does not go beyond that, because it is a question of one who desired the law.

353 But the law is not the measure of Christian walk; it only says that he who walks according to the Spirit fulfils it. When I was in the flesh I could not fulfil it, because the flesh is not subject to the law, nor can be, but only follows its own will. But the Spirit will assuredly not lead us into that which is contrary to the law of God. The law is practically fulfilled, while we are not under the law, but under the guidance of the Spirit. We are under the influence of the Spirit and it is not a question of a law outside us, but of a nature in us, which possesses an object suitable to it. They who live after the Spirit, according to the new man, desire the things of the Spirit; but they that are after the flesh set their minds on the objects of their fleshly lusts. We have not to do with an imposed law, but a new mind, the mind of a nature which is born of the Spirit, and which seeks what is spiritual; a holy liberty, in that the man, as having died with Christ, is delivered from the yoke of sin possesses a holy nature born of God, has holy objects before him, and is the habitation of the Holy Spirit, who produces holy thoughts in the heart, and reveals the things that are above. The minding of the flesh is death to the soul; it bears no fruit, and separates the soul from God, now and for eternity. But the minding of the Spirit is life, a well in us which springs up into everlasting life, and fills the soul with peace. The mind of the flesh rebels against the authority of God. Inasmuch as it makes up the activity of the natural man, it has to do with the law, which is the expression of this authority of God over man, and the rule of his responsibility as a creature of God. But it is not subject to the law, neither indeed can be, because self-will will go its own way; besides it has no love whatever for what pleases God. Thus they that are in the flesh, who are found before God in the position of the first Adam, and walk according to the life of the first Adam, cannot please God.

354 In verse 9 we find a very important principle. When can one say, "I am not in the flesh"? The answer is: When the Holy Spirit dwells in him. A man may be converted, and yet be found in the condition described in chapter 7; as, for example, the prodigal son before he met his father. He was converted and in the right way, yet he desired only to become a hired servant of his father. But as soon as he had met his father we hear nothing more of that, but only of what his father was and what he did for him. Deliverance comes through the personal knowledge of what the Father is, known in Jesus Christ, through the knowledge of redemption. And this knowledge is only found in a soul in which the Holy Spirit dwells. A converted man, as such, is only in the Christian position when he has been anointed. When the prodigal son was on the way to his father's house, his conscience and heart were reached by grace and rightly directed; but he was not yet clad in the best robe, nor did he yet know the father's heart. He first entered upon the Christian position when he reached the father; and from that moment we hear no more of him, but only of the father. Before that, his condition was not fit for the house.

In verse 10 we see the other side of the Christian relationship At the beginning of the chapter it says, "Which are in Christ Jesus"; and here, "If Christ be in you." Thus on the one hand the Christian is in Christ; and on the other, Christ is in him. We are in Christ, according to His perfection before God; Christ in us is the ground and measure of our responsibility, but in which He is the source of our strength, and that according to what has been said in the beginning of the chapter. A Christian is a man who has not only been born again (which is absolutely necessary), but in whom also the Holy Spirit dwells. He directs the eye of the believer to the work of Christ, and teaches him to appreciate its worth. He it is who gives him the consciousness that he is in Christ, and Christ in him (John 14), and fills his heart with the hope of glory, with the certainty that he will be like Christ and with Christ for ever and ever. When the converted man knows that his sins are forgiven; when he can cry, "Abba, Father"; when he has the knowledge that for him there is no more condemnation, he is delivered; he stands in liberty before God, and is freed from the law of sin and death. But he is a full Christian, "perfect," only when he understands by the Holy Spirit that he occupies the position of Christ, that God is his Father and God in the same manner as He is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ - when he understands that he has passed out of the position of Adam into the position of Christ, that he has died with Christ, and thus that it is no more he who lives, but Christ in him; Gal. 2:20.

355 This liberty is presented and developed very clearly in the Epistle to the Romans, but only so far as that the believer is there looked at as having died with Christ, and possessing Christ as his life, whereby he has been delivered from the law of sin, as well as from the law of Moses, because this has dominion over a man so long as he lives, and cannot go further. The epistle, however, does not take up the counsels of God and the glory of our new position, though this doctrine is approached in chapter 8:29-30. But in general the epistle treats of man's responsibility, as well as of what God has done to cleanse and to justify us from our guilt, teaching us at the same time how we have been delivered from the law of sin and death by our death with Christ. The above-mentioned verses open out a somewhat more extended view; but the new position is not further developed. The epistle does not go beyond the truth that we have been quickened by Christ; it does not speak of our resurrection with Him. This, the starting-point of our new position, we must look for in the Epistle to the Colossians. That to the Ephesians develops this doctrine yet further, from another point of view, however. There we do not find that a child of Adam must die, and rise again, and that the believer has died, although he is represented as risen with Christ. The unconverted man in the Ephesians, is looked at rather as dead in sins, and all is a new creation. We find there all the counsels of God, both as to believers raised with Christ, as to Christ Himself, as to the children of God, and our union with Christ as His body.

356 It is well to remark, that while the first three verses of chapter 8 give us the principles of deliverance, so the following eight verses describe the practical character and the result of deliverance. The Holy Spirit acts in the new life, instead of a law given outside it to which the flesh opposes an insuperable resistance. The Spirit furnishes the new life with heavenly objects, in which it finds its joy and sustenance. "The mind of the Spirit is life and peace." All this depends on the dwelling of the Holy Spirit in us. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." We have already said that the condition of such an one is similar to that of the prodigal son before he had found his father. If, on the other hand, the Spirit of Christ dwells in one who is converted, the body for him is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the body lives by virtue of its own life, it brings forth nothing but sin; the spiritual man, according to chapter 6, reckons it dead.

The Spirit is not to be separated from the new life. He is the source of the life, and characterises it. Now if the Spirit of Him who raised up Jesus dwells in us, He who raised up Christ from the dead will also quicken our mortal bodies on account of His Spirit which dwelleth in us. That is the blessed end of the life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus, or rather the beginning of it in its true perfection. The Spirit is God's Spirit. God has raised up Jesus as Man - Jesus is His personal name. But it was not for Himself that He lay in death; Christ is His name, as come for others. If, then, the Spirit of God dwells in us, He who raised up the First-Begotten, will raise up also the sheep He has redeemed.

Three characteristic names are here attributed to the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of God (ver. 9) in contrast with the flesh; the Spirit of Christ as the formative power of the new man; and the Spirit of Him who raised up Christ from among the dead, because He is in us the pledge of our resurrection.

The glorious end of delivering grace is reached; the circumstances by which we are surrounded remain indeed the same; and the following verses of the chapter give us our position before God in connection with these circumstances.

357 "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" (v. 12). That brought us into a bad condition and a bad position; nor are we any longer in the flesh, but are delivered from it through redemption; through the Redeemer's death we have been brought into a new position, of which we have also the consciousness by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. The two lives, the two principles, are directly opposed to each other; and it is important to observe (what has already been set forth as a principle in chapter 2) that where these natures act, they bring forth their natural results. I can overcome the flesh by the Spirit; I have the right and the duty to reckon it dead. But if the flesh lives, it brings forth death; and if I live according to the flesh, death is my lot. The nature, and the working of this nature - its result - are ever the same. God can give me a new nature, and - His name be praised for it - He gives it to me in Christ; and that in such a way that I have part in redemption, and in the power of the Spirit can overcome the old nature, and walk according to the Spirit. But the nature of the flesh is not changed essentially, any more than its consequences. If I live after the flesh I must die. Grace redeems; gives me a new life in which I walk after the Spirit and reckon the flesh dead; and, finally, it gives me the glory. But this new life does not live after the flesh; nay, it cannot do so. If I live after the flesh, I die, alienated from God; for the fruit and wages of the life of the flesh is death. But if through the Spirit I mortify the deeds of the body, I live, and shall live for ever with God from whom this life of my soul flows, and whose Spirit is its strength and guide.

This gives the apostle occasion to speak of the position of those led by the Spirit of God, and in the first place of their relationship to God. The Spirit that they have received is the Spirit of adoption; they possess Him because they are children. But extensive results in blessing flow from this relationship; if they are children, they are also heirs - heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Meanwhile the condition of the creation around us here below, and particularly that of our own bodies, is not yet restored. The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, just as also the friendship of the world is enmity against Him. The principles of the flesh, as of the world, are opposed to us; both are subject to the bondage of corruption. Moreover the world through which we have to pass as pilgrims, being alienated from God, and under the dominion of Satan, furnishes us with innumerable sources of sorrow and pain. The Lord Jesus was in this world "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." A world of sin in contrast with His holiness, a world of sorrow and suffering in contrast with His love, could not but be for His heart a source of sorrow and pain. He found Himself isolated and alone in such a world, and not even His disciples understood Him. Full of sympathy for all, He found sympathy nowhere for Himself. If such did once break through the darkness of man's heart, it was something so wonderful that the Lord says, "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her," Mark 14:9.

358 Could we, if we have the Spirit of Christ, go through such a world without feeling its condition? Should not our hearts be sad when at every step we see the dominion of sin, and have daily before our eyes the sorrows of sinful man, when we see that all is subject to the bondage of corruption? The time will come when we shall behold the universal blessing of the world, and when we shall rejoice with God Himself in it. But now, as those that are renewed in heart, and delivered, we can but suffer in the midst of an undelivered creation.

Let us remark, however, that this is suffering with Christ, not for Him. To suffer for Christ is a privilege, a special gift of God; Phil. 1:29. One cannot be a Christian without suffering with Christ; for how could the Spirit of Christ produce in us a different mind from that which was in Christ as He passed through this poor world? The glory of the children of God is a subject of hope; now the sufferings of Christ in weakness are reproduced in a heart in which Christ dwells. We suffer here, where Christ suffered, as joint-heirs of the kingdom of love, where all will be joy and gladness. Although we are already, as a present thing, children, or rather sons, and therefore heirs also, we do not yet possess the inheritance; indeed, we cannot yet possess it, for it is still corrupt, defiled, and in this condition would not be suitable for us. Christ is seated at the right hand of God until His enemies be made His footstool. Then shall we reign with Him and be like Him.

359 Therefore the apostle, who knew well what suffering was, could say, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." We possess the relationship of sons, and have besides the consciousness of it, and therefore no longer fear. Where there is fear, the heart has not the knowledge of this position. The Spirit in us cries, "Abba, Father!" and it cannot be otherwise, for He only came after all was accomplished which has placed us in this relationship. Christ has given us His own position before God. After accomplishing all that was requisite, as well for the glory of God as for our redemption, and, indeed, where it was necessary for both - namely, in the place of sin - "made sin," as Man He has gone up into heaven. In Him a Man has entered into the glory of God, beyond sin, death, the power of Satan, the judgment of God against sin, so that He could send the message by Mary Magdalene - "Say to my brethren, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." Thereupon He sent down the Holy Spirit as the blessed result of His ascension as Man into heaven, after having accomplished all for our redemption. This Spirit dwells in believers who rest in the value of His blood, so that their body is a temple of the Holy Ghost; 1 Cor. 6. They are sealed by the Spirit and have the earnest of the inheritance, the consciousness that they are the children of God. He makes present to us Christ who is in heaven, and causes us to enjoy unseen things. It would therefore be impossible that He should be a Spirit of fear or of bondage.

But the operation of the Spirit in us is two-fold. He leads us to appreciate the glory that lies before us, and gives us the sense that the sufferings into which we are brought in endeavouring to reach this glory, and in faithfulness to Christ, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, so that we can pursue the path of God with fresh courage and endurance. He helps our weakness likewise, that we may take part, according to God, in these sufferings; and that, by the Spirit, our hearts may be vessels of sympathy answering to the heart of Christ, while by our groans we give expression before God to the groans of a suffering creation. What a precious position, to be able thus to realise His glory and love, who came down into the midst of a suffering creation, so that, while by our bodies having part in a fallen creation, our hearts by the Spirit can be the mouth-piece of the whole creation, and can express according to God its groans before Him. Into this feeling the heart of Christ entered to the full, in perfect love and perfection. Inasmuch as He, though truly Man, was in Himself absolutely free from sin, which had brought this suffering upon the creature, His sympathy with the consequences of sin for us was all the more perfect. "He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows," Matt. 8:17. At the grave of Lazarus, seeing Mary and all the Jews weeping, He groaned in His spirit, and was troubled.* To us also, though as fallen creatures, weak and imperfect, is given by the indwelling Spirit to take part in the sufferings of creation, and that not with selfish impatience, because we suffer ourselves, but according to God. The way the apostle presents the condition of creation around us will make this experience clearer; although we have already considered some points of it, we can nevertheless begin afresh at verse 19.

{*Both the words employed here in the original Greek are very strongly expressive of inward emotion.}

360 It has been already observed that we have to suffer in the world because it is all lying in sin and disorder, while we have been brought back to God; and further, that we have also to suffer in heart, because we dwell in the midst of an undelivered creation. But the eye of faith is directed to the glory which lies before us, and this joyful prospect, together with the fellowship which we enjoy with God, already down here, makes us realise that all around us is unreconciled.

This creation awaits its redemption; but it cannot be delivered and restored until the children of God, in the glory of the kingdom, are ready to take possession of it as joint-heirs with Christ. Christ sits at the right hand of God until these joint-heirs are gathered. It is a blessed thought, that as we have brought the earthly creation under the bondage of corruption, so now it must wait for our being glorified, to be restored and delivered from this bondage (v. 19). It is not the will of the creature that subjected it to this bondage; we have done it - but in hope; for this condition will not continue always: the creation will be restored. God, however, in the counsels of His grace, begins with the guilty, with those who are most alienated, with those in whom He will, in the ages to come, shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness towards us in Christ Jesus; Eph. 2:7; compare Colossians 1:20-21.

Creation, inasmuch as it is only physical, could not enter into the liberty of grace; it must await the liberty of the glory of the children of God. When they are delivered, and their bodies which belong to this creation are changed and glorified, and when Satan is bound, then the creature also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption in which it lies enthralled. For we know, we that are instructed in Christian doctrine - that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. We know it yet more because we have the firstfruits of the Spirit; and "we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." Thus we wait to possess that which is saved in hope; not only to possess eternal life as life - that we have already - but to be glorified, by our bodies, which belong to this creation, being changed, and we made like unto Christ the Lord, according to the power whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Himself (Phil. 3:21).

361 Thus peace is made; our sins are put away, we have a new life, possess the earnest of the Spirit, the glory lies before us in hope, and we shall be like the Lord. But as long as we have not reached the glory, we groan with the creation. For while realising our glorious hope, we feel the sad condition of the whole creation being connected with it as fallen, by our bodies. Free before God, free from the law of sin and death, filled with the hope of glory, we are led, through the knowledge of this glory, and of the full deliverance of the creature, to groan, which is the expression of its groan to God. But our groaning is not a complaint, the fruit of discontent, but the operation of the Holy Spirit in the heart. The Spirit directs our eye to the glory, where we shall have no more occasion to groan; and leads us to feel according to the love of God, the suffering of a creation under bondage; we at the same time feel it, because by our bodies we still belong to it. The Spirit of God which dwells in us forms these feelings according to God. God searches the human heart, and He finds this operation of the Spirit in the heart of the delivered Christian. The Spirit Himself is there, the source of divine sympathy with a groaning creation (v. 27). The eye of the Christian will be, by the indwelling Holy Spirit, directed above, to the glory and the rest of God, where all is blessing. With joy he realises what is before him. But, as he is still in the body, he feels so much the more the condition of a fallen creation, shares its groans, and thereby becomes the voice of a creation groaning before God. But his groaning is in the spirit of love, according to God, because in his relationship with God he is perfectly free. With regard to his condition, he is saved in hope; but before God his heart is free in the consciousness of His love. He can rejoice in hope - the hope of glory; his conscience is perfect; the love of God is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost. And thus according to this love he can sympathise with the universal misery around him. He knows not, it is true, what remedy he ought to look for in his prayers; perhaps there is none. But love can express the needs, and does it according to the operation of the Spirit; and although the Christian does not know what he should ask for, He who searches the hearts finds the mind of the Spirit in his groans; for it is the Spirit that in the depths of the heart gives expression to the feelings of need. Being ourselves still in the body, and as to our own condition forming part of the groaning creation and awaiting the redemption of our bodies, our sympathy is the more heartfelt.

362 But although we know not what we ought to pray for, yet there is what we know with perfect certainty, namely, that God makes all things work together for good to them that love Him, whom He has called according to His purpose.

What privilege is ours through grace - privilege that we enjoy by the Holy Ghost! We are children of God, we know our relationship with God, and can realise it by the Holy Ghost; we cry, "Abba, Father!" are children, therefore heirs - heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. The Spirit reveals to us our inheritance, and gives us to understand what it is. We shall be like Christ in the rest of God, and in His own rest - perfectly to the glory of Christ, and shall reign with Him over all things. As men upon earth we lift our eyes to the glory of God which is our hope, and which we shall share with Christ, there where all is pure conformably to the purity of God. Looking at this poor world, our hearts are filled with the love of God, in which we share the sufferings of an undelivered creation, and that according to God; so that He who searches the hearts finds therein the mind of the Spirit, who produces in us this sympathy with the sufferings of the fallen creation in order that we in our groans may become the mouthpiece of the creation before God. And as from our lack of intelligence we do not always know what we should pray for, the word of God comforts us with the assurance that God, according to His own will and love, makes all things work together for our good.

363 This leads the apostle to say a few words as to the counsels of God, although this is not the subject of the epistle. He does so only to shew the foundation of all blessing. Otherwise the epistle treats, as already remarked, of man's responsibility, as well as of the grace and the work of God to deliver us from the consequences of this responsibility.

God acts constantly in behalf of those who are called, for they are foreknown; and whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son. Moreover, "Whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified." All is grace, and therefore all is secure. Thus also God does not terminate the course of the manifestations of His grace until the object is attained; the activity of God's grace does not cease until they that are called are glorified. The whole teaching of the gospel leads us back to God and to His thoughts, which cannot fail, and cannot be hindered. And there we find, His name be praised for it, that God is for us. The apostle develops this doctrine in verses 31-39. We see the proof of God's being for us, first, in what He gives, then in His justifying us, and, finally, in that nothing can separate us from His love. Such is the blessed consequence of the whole teaching of the Epistle, "God is for us"; that is the source of blessing; that is the conclusion the heart draws from all that is here revealed of Him. Not only has the righteousness of God been glorified and satisfied in the work of Christ, but we see also that the love of God is the source of all; and that changes all our thoughts as to God. It was just on this point that the doctrine of the reformers of the sixteenth century was defective. Far be it from me to depreciate the value of these men. No one could be more thankful for the deliverance from superstition which we gained by the Reformation; no one can more highly appreciate than I do the faith of those who even sacrificed their lives for the truth. It would be impossible for me now quietly to write of what was wanting in their doctrine, if they had not joyfully given up their lives for the maintenance of the truth. Nevertheless, the truth remains ever the same in the word of God. The reformers taught, it is true, that Christ had done all that was requisite to satisfy the righteousness of God, but not that it was the love of God that gave the Lamb, His own Son, to accomplish the work. According to them, God was ever the Judge, reconciled indeed to us through the work of Christ, but not known as the One who loved us when we were yet sinners. In John 3:14 the Lord says, "The Son of man must be lifted up," for God is a holy and righteous God. Then in verse 16 follows the motive of all: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son." The practical consequence of the teaching of the reformers was - not that they thought of or perhaps desired it - that the love is in Christ, and that God sits on the judgment-seat as a cold Judge. But "grace reigns through righteousness," Rom. 5:21. In the day of judgment righteousness will reign. Love has established the righteousness of God in our favour in Christ. Righteousness was needed; love has provided it.

364 Thus we know that God is for us according to His infinite love, and according to His eternal and immutable righteousness. The first proof of it is that He spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us; "how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Yes, we can count on Him to give us every good thing; but how can He, the Holy One, be for us in view of our sins? It is just in that, that we have seen how fully He is for us, for He has given His Son even for our sins. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" God Himself justifies us, who shall condemn us? Let us observe that all is here attributed to God. It does not say, we are justified before God, but "It is God that justifieth"; so that the apostle may well exclaim, "Who is he that condemneth," whoever he may be?

Then he changes somewhat the form of the sentence. He must think of Christ, and then through Him he sees also all the difficulties of the way disappear. Not as though they did not exist; they are there; but they disappear because Christ Himself has passed through every difficulty. Become man, in His love, He has experienced all the trials of the way, all human sorrow, all that in which the enemy has sought to oppose the faithful servant of God in the path of holiness, even unto death. Accordingly, not only do we overcome, by His assured power, but we make experience of His love in a special manner. The sufferings are the pledge of a better glory; and while as Man He has passed through everything, as God He has thereby proved His infinite love, and we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.

365 In every respect God is for us. Precious truth! He has given His own Son, He will give us all things. He Himself justifies us, who shall condemn us? And nothing can separate us from the love that has been thus proved. All that is against us on the way to glory cannot, as the creature, be greater than He who is above all. God is for us in Christ, in Him who overcame all. Not only is the path which He trod - as Man so as to suffer, and as God to manifest all love in the sufferings - the proof of His love, but, following Him in this path, we also experience His love. Nothing can separate us from this love.

Romans 9

The doctrine of the epistle closes with chapter 8. The two principal questions which concern man as a sinner - his guilt and his sinful condition; in other words, what he has done and what he is - have been fully treated. Christ died for our sins, so that we (believers) are justified; and we have died with Christ, so that we are delivered from the power of sin and the flesh. All the deeds of the flesh are forgiven us, and we are no more in the flesh, but in Christ. There is, therefore, no more condemnation for us, and no more separation from God.

But this doctrine, complete in itself, still left a difficult question unanswered; that is, in respect to the condition of the Jews. The apostle has clearly demonstrated that the Jew is guilty because he has transgressed the law, and that consequently there is no difference between the Jews and the heathen; all have sinned, are guilty before God, and subject to His judgment. The Jews could not deny that they had transgressed the law; but they could appeal to the unconditional promises made to them in Abraham and their other forefathers. Now chapters 9-11 meet these difficulties.

There are undoubtedly unconditional promises made to the Jewish nation. But, in the first place, they are not all Israel that are of the stock of Israel; and what is still more important, they have rejected Him in whom these promises were to be fulfilled, and in whom their fulfilment was offered to them, thereby losing all right to such fulfilment; "they stumbled at that stumbling-stone." But then, after that all blessing, for them no less than for the heathen, is become a matter of pure mercy, the apostle shews that God, who is unchangeably faithful, will in grace accomplish all that He has promised. We find the proof of these principles in chapters 9-11.

366 In the first place, the apostle gives expression to his unalterable love for his people. His heart was filled with sorrow at their rejection; yea, so far was he from being indifferent as to this, that he would rather have seen himself accursed, separated from Christ, than the beloved people. As Christ Himself, when from the summit of the Mount of Olives He saw Jerusalem stretched out before His eyes, wept over it on account of the hardness of heart of the people, or as Moses once (Exod. 32:32) interceded for the idolatrous people, so here we find the apostle giving expression to the same feelings of love and sorrow. This wish was not the expression of serious and calm deliberation, neither did it belong to the moment then present; but it had arisen from a heart deeply oppressed by the thought of the rejection of the people beloved of God - his kinsmen according to the flesh. It was the exclamation of a heart unable to repress its overwhelming feelings. He enumerates their privileges up to the Messiah descended from them according to the flesh, for his heart was yet full of all that appertained to them in connection with God. Moreover, he does not speak as if the word of God had failed in its object, "For they are not all Israel which are of Israel, neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children." In Isaac only had the seed the children's place before God. The children of the flesh are not on that account children of God, but the children according to the promise are alone counted for the seed. Ishmael did not belong to this seed of God; for the word, "At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son," is a word of promise, and does not refer to Ishmael. If it be objected, "But Hagar was only a bondwoman, a concubine," such, however, was not the case with Rebekah; and to her it was said concerning the children which should be born of her - of her only, and at the same time, and that before they were born, or had done either good or evil (that the purpose of God according to the election of grace might stand) - "The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written: Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." If, then, the Jews would not recognise God's sovereignty, but desired to take their stand upon their descent from Abraham after the flesh, they must also allow the Edomites and Ishmaelites to have part in the promises; this, however, they would not tolerate.

367 However, important as this may be, it is not all that the apostle has to bring forward as proof of his position. He asks, "Is there unrighteousness with God? Far be the thought." According to His divine title He can without doubt shew mercy to whom He will, as He says also to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy." "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." And what was the occasion on which God spoke thus to Moses? When Israel had made the golden calf, at a time when God, if He had not retreated into His own sovereignty in which He was free to shew grace, must have destroyed the whole nation except Moses and Joshua; so that then, according to the carnal Jewish principle, the Ishmaelites and Edomites must have become heirs of the promises, while Israel would have been shut out. We find the same principle in Israel's deliverance out of bondage in Egypt. God had not made Pharaoh's heart bad, it was so already; but He hardened it, that He might glorify His name and power in all the earth. Thus He shews mercy to whom He will, and whom He will He hardens. His ways with Israel were a clear and indisputable proof of it; for otherwise their enemies would have become heirs of the promises, but they themselves would have been excluded, and the glorious beginning of their history would have been falsified.

Further, the apostle proceeds to consider the doctrine which is connected with this exposition, and applies the whole to the ways of God with Israel and with the heathen of that time, anticipating the objections of the flesh. What becomes, then, of man's responsibility? Why does God still impute sin to man? Who hath resisted His will? The apostle answers these questions in a threefold manner. First, as creatures of God we have not the right to judge His actions; that which is formed cannot say to Him who formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? This absolute right of God forms the foundation of the apostle's argument. If the rights of the creature must be maintained, how much more then must the Almighty God have His own? He judges men, but men are not competent to judge Him. The apostle here comes to facts, and shews how God had endured the wicked with much long-suffering, in order to make known His power despised by them, and has revealed His wrath against hardened wickedness in them; how, on the other hand, He makes known the riches of His glory in the vessels of mercy which He had afore prepared unto glory. God is not subject to the opinions of men; but the order of His revealed ways is, that He endures the wicked for whom judgment is meet, and prepares the vessels of mercy for glory, that is to say, Christians from among the Jews and Gentiles. The force and bearing, thus, of the apostle's argument is this: If God is not entirely free to act according to His election and His determinate purpose, and the Jews would rely upon their natural descent (as they actually did), then they must admit the Ishmaelites; but if they refuse their admittance on the pretext that Ishmael was the son of a slave, on no pretext can they reject the Edomites. Not only so, but with the single exception of the family of Moses, and perhaps that of Joshua, the Jews themselves would have had to be excluded, because it was only by the will of God that they were spared at Sinai. Since, however, God does what He wills, He also saves souls from amongst the Gentiles, as it is written in Hosea. The apostle says, in verse 24, "Us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles." Accordingly verse 25 has its application to the people of Israel; verse 26, however, to the Gentiles, who are not called His people, but "sons of the living God." Peter, writing to the Jews, quotes only the first passage. Paul brings forward besides a passage from the prophet Isaiah, in proof of God's having foreseen and predicted the setting aside of Israel. A remnant only should be spared; had this not been the case they would have "been as Sodom, and been made like unto Gomorrha."

368 The Gentiles, who followed not after righteousness, had then attained to righteousness, but the righteousness which is of faith; whilst Israel, following after the law of righteousness, missed the mark. And why? Because they sought righteousness by means of the law, and not by faith. "For they stumbled at that stumbling-stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

Romans 10

The apostle then enters more fully into this subject - the difference between legal righteousness, and that which is by faith, the righteousness of God. This is of the utmost importance. Legal righteousness is human righteousness. True, there is no such thing; but conscience feels, and rightly so, that man must have righteousness. Where there is confidence in self, one presumes to accomplish this righteousness, and to be able to offer it for God's acceptance. That man is responsible is perfectly true; but not only has he never fulfilled his responsibility, but he has not even made a beginning, because the flesh is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The carnal man is contrary to God. The righteousness of God is in God Himself, in His being; it is exercised in grace towards men, and imputed to them through Christ. One's own righteousness is nothing but pride and want of conscience; it is only found where the heart is not divinely enlightened. For the light of God gives us clearly to know that we are sinners, and brings this upon the conscience before God. In this light the law also, applied by the Holy Spirit, can convince of sin, but it cannot produce righteousness for us; for the ministry of the law is the ministry of death and condemnation; 2 Cor. 3.

369 The righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel (Rom. 1:17); and we have become this righteousness in Christ; 2 Cor. 5:21. Let us examine how this has taken place. On the cross Christ was made sin for us, and there bore all the believer's sins. In this position He perfectly glorified God - His majesty, truth, righteousness against sin, His love to sinners, yea, all that He is; and that by having proved His obedience unto death, and His love to His Father in perfect self-sacrifice. The proof of the righteousness of God, and that with regard to what He is in Himself, to what sin is, and what it is in relation to Him, is now shewn in God's having glorified Christ, who perfectly glorified Him in all that He is, in this place of sin, where by man's sin, all this had been dishonoured; and His having set at His own right hand the Man who died - His own Son - and crowned Him with divine glory. This is what the Lord says in view of His death after Satan had entered into Judas. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him," John 13:31-32. The Son of man has glorified God on the cross, and God has glorified Him with Himself. A man is ascended into the glory of God. (See John 17:4-5; Phil. 2:5-11.) The righteousness of God has been revealed in that He has given Christ, who glorified Him, a place with Himself in divine glory. In John 16:10 this is expressly declared. The descent and presence of the Holy Ghost upon earth is the proof of righteousness, because, since it did not believe on the Son, but had rejected Him, there was none in the world. The presence of the Saviour in heaven at the right hand of God is, likewise, the proof of the righteousness of God: the same Person who was rejected by the world, has been accepted by God, and is now, as come in grace, for ever separated from the world.

370 But now the question arises, How can we have part in this? It is because the work which placed Him in the glory was accomplished for us. Through it He has glorified God. If we, who believe on Him, were not justified and made like Him, He would not see of "the fruit and travail of his soul." It forms part of the righteousness of God to give Him this fruit. Individually, of course, He is glorified; but a Redeemer without the redeemed would have lost the reward of His work and sufferings. We form part of the glory of Christ; and it is a deep source of joy to our souls that we, by our likeness to Him, in eternity shall be the proof of the value of the work of Christ. God only manifests His righteousness towards Christ in giving us the same glory with Him. How sure is our hope! We shall be with Him in the righteousness of God throughout eternity.

The Jews wanted to have their own righteousness according to the law - a human righteousness, had such a thing existed, which, however, was not the case; therefore they stumbled at Christ, the stone of stumbling, because for this purpose He had to be abased. His death was necessary to redeem us, and to acquire righteousness for us, and even glory, according to the counsels of God. Thus Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to every believer. It was impossible for the law to be maintained any longer as the rule and measure of righteousness for man, after divine righteousness had been revealed in Christ, and bestowed on believers. The righteousness of the law was human, and besides, did not exist at all; the righteousness imputed in grace to the believer was divine and perfect. The law has not lost its validity for those who were under it, for they who have sinned under the law shall be judged according to the law. But we have died with and in Christ, and the law has dominion over a man only so long as he lives. Whoever wants human righteousness must accomplish it for himself, for the man which doeth the requirements of the law shall live by them.

371 The apostle then quotes a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy (chap. 30:12-14), on which I would say a word. Moses had in this book declared the commandments of God, to the observance of which was attached the possession of the land into which Israel should be introduced. He had presented the blessings as consequent upon obedience, and the curse as consequent upon disobedience. Then in the chapter quoted (ch. 30) it is presupposed that Israel, in consequence of their disobedience, would lose the land; and a promise is given as to what the mercy of the Lord would do, after the people, languishing in captivity, are through grace brought to repentance. As this promise will be fulfilled in Christ, the apostle applies verses 12-14 to Christ. It is impossible for Israel to fulfil the law in a strange land; but when the people return in heart and in obedience to Jehovah, then God will bless them, although the law could not be observed. And since the doing of the law was impossible, this blessing will take place on the ground of a righteousness which is of faith, as Paul shews in verse 6. Therefore Christ, being Himself for the Jew the object of hope, is here introduced as the restorer of the nation. The apostle says it is not necessary to go far, to ascend or descend, to find Christ. If the word, which, according to the power of the Holy Ghost, reveals Christ as risen from among the dead, is in the heart; if in sincerity of heart one confesses Him, one is saved. "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth [that is to say openly] confession is made unto salvation." And this applies to the Gentiles quite as much as to the Jews, for "whosoever believeth on him [whoever he may be] shall not be ashamed." There is no difference between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich in grace towards all that call upon Him. How beautiful this verse is when one compares it with chapter 3:22-23. There, there is no difference, for all have sinned; here, no difference, for the same Lord over all is rich in grace towards all that call upon Him. "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (v. 13). But to be able to call upon Him one must believe on Him; and to be able to believe on Him, one must have heard of Him; but to hear of Him, He must be preached, and for that there must be a preacher. As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" (ver. 15); that is to say, divine blessings. But all have not obeyed the gospel, as Isaiah says: "Lord, who hath believed our report?" So then, faith is by a report, the report is by the word of God.

372 The apostle then alludes to the relative position of the Jews and Gentiles, with regard to this report. Of the Jews Isaiah says, "Who hath believed our report?" But it was the purpose of God that the testimony should sound forth to the ends of the earth, and be heard by the heathen. For Moses says that God would provoke Israel to jealousy by them that are no people, and by a foolish nation would anger them. "But Esaias was very bold and saith: I was found of them that sought me not, I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me. But to Israel he saith: All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people." Israel accordingly fell under God's judgment, was excluded from His presence, and, on the ground of responsibility, had lost all claim to the promises. Was he then rejected for ever? By no means. Such is the answer, the teaching of the following chapter.

Romans 11

Israel is the subject of God's counsels. God does not cast away what He has foreknown and appointed to blessing. This rests upon positive grace; God does not change His counsels though Israel have no righteousness. The righteousness of God will save him. God is faithful, if all men are liars. "I say then," says the apostle, "God hath not cast away his people." The apostle gives three proofs of this truth. First, there was a remnant according to election; next, salvation is come unto the Gentiles to provoke the Jews to jealousy: thirdly, the Deliverer shall come out of Zion to turn away the ungodliness of Israel.

We have here much to consider. The first proof was that there was a remnant. The apostle gives the instance of Elijah. The faithful prophet believed that he alone remained of godly men. Faithful though he was, this was pure unbelief. God had reserved for Himself seven thousand that had not bowed down to Baal. The eye of God better knew how to discern His own, was more faithful in taking account of them, than was the faith of the prophet, dismayed by the threats of Jezebel, to seek them out and find them. And so at the time of the apostle there was a remnant according to the election of grace. But if it was according to grace, it was not according to works, otherwise grace was no more grace. Thus Israel had not obtained what he sought for. The election had obtained it. The others were blinded, and that according to the words of the prophet; Isa. 29:10. What David had said was confirmed by the words of the prophet. Their table would become a snare and a trap unto them. Did they then stumble that they should fall? By no means. Rather through their fall salvation had come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. Now, if their fall had become the riches of the Gentiles and of the world, how much more their fulness! Consequently the apostle of the Gentiles magnified his office, because it served to provoke Israel to jealousy. He sought thereby to constrain some of them to this jealousy. For if the casting away of them were the reconciling of the world, what would the receiving of them be? For they shall certainly be brought back. But this gives occasion to the statement of the relation borne to the Jews by the Gentiles that were accepted, and of the responsibility of the latter in the position in which they were placed: a statement covering principles of the highest importance.*

{*The above (in German, from which this is a translation) was broken off by the last illness of the writer.}