To understand well any part of Scripture we must not take an isolated passage (though, when understood, such may be rich in edification) but read, as we should in every writing, each passage with its context, and in its place. It is with this view that, in treating of Romans 7 and 8, I take a rapid survey of the structure of the whole Epistle.
After an introduction, stating what the Gospel of God is about, and his interest in the Romans, the apostle proves and dissects the sinful state of Gentiles, philosophising moralists, and, finally, Jews; admitting the external advantages possessed by the latter, but using even these to bring them in guilty, and thus have every mouth stopped, and all the world guilty before God. This guilt he shews to be met by the blood of Christ. All that the old man is or has done, Jew or Gentile, lawless or under law, is met by the work of the Redeemer on the cross, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood; accounting thus, in righteousness, for the remission of past sins, and setting forth, as a present standing, the righteousness of God thus declared. The great roots of Jewish hope and glory, Abraham and David, testified to the same truth of justification by faith. But another principle is now brought in: faith, not in a dying Saviour, but in God that raises the dead—not the meeting the sins of the old man by propitiation through blood, but God coming in, as perfectly glorified by that work, to deliver completely from that state, and shew us Christ raised from the dead. Abraham believed that God could so perform His promise; we believe He has raised up Christ, who was delivered for our offences and raised up again for our justification (chap. 1-4).
The resurrection of Christ, His being raised by the power of God after being delivered for our offences, forms the ground of the following chapters. It is not only atonement for sin, but bringing man into- a new state by the power of God, perfectly accepted, consequent on Christ’s being delivered for our offences. But in this Epistle the apostle only sees the fact in Christ, not our being raised with Him. Thus, however, we have peace with God through faith, and have our portion in the glory of God, being reconciled to Him by the death of His Son. The blessing flows to men from the Second Adam through faith, as the judgment from the first through sin. The law came in by the bye, that the offence, might abound; chap. 5.
Chapter 6 applies the same principle to Christian life. The flesh pretended, being (it would make us believe) very jealous for God’s holiness, that if Christ’s obedience was the one means of righteousness before God, we might continue in sin. This, while pretending to care for holiness, is the confession, that, if not restrained by fear, and if God shews man grace, man is so irreparably bad that he will only seek evil. I admit it; but God would have hearts; and the spirit of bondage again to fear is not His way of sanctifying. What then is the answer? You are dead with Christ; but one who is, cannot be alive in that to which he is dead. “In that Christ died, he died unto sin once; in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Thus Christ’s resurrection had been applied to justifying and to newness of life, we being accounted, and to account ourselves, dead unto sin.
Chapter 7 applies this principle to the case of law. It is that we have now to consider. Law has dominion over a man as long as he lives; but we have died in Christ, and its dominion is closed with our life. We are to another, Christ raised from the dead. This is the principle. The chapter is divided into four parts. The first is the great principle we have just stated (vers. 1-3); the second is its actual application to those under law (vers. 4-6); the operation of law on a man under it, man having lusts (vers. 7-12); the experience of a man under law, though renewed in the desires of his mind, viewed in the light of Christian knowledge, that is, by a person out of that condition (v. 13-24). The last verse arrives at the deliverance, and the abstract principle brought to light by all this.
Nothing, after all, can be simpler than the principle the apostle lays down, and which he exemplifies under the figure of marriage. Law has power over a man as long as he lives; has he died? the law binds him no longer. Thus, a woman is bound by the law under which she is to her husband, as long as he lives; but if death comes in, the bond has ceased, and she is free. Now we have died in Christ, that is the theme of chapters 6 and 7. We have died therefore to the law by the body of Christ (that is, in Christ’s death), that we should have another husband, Christ raised from the dead. The two— law and a risen Christ—cannot have authority over us together, and this second marriage is alone fruitful. The Christian, then, is distinctly held to have died, and thus to have ceased to be under the law, and that by the body of Christ; and to be to another, the risen Christ.
Consequently he is not in the flesh—in the first Adam—and the responsibilities which attach to him; nor under law, even if he had been, because the bond of the law ceased with the life it had its claim over. Hence the next paragraph turns back as to a past time, when it speaks of the state of man under the law, and still alive in the bond of the first husband. “My brethren, ye are become dead to the law… for when we were in the flesh the motions of sin which were by the law did work in our members.” When we were in that condition, as alive in the first Adam state and under law, the motions of sin were working, set in activity, as an occasion, by the law. Flesh and law are correlatives, save, in the case of mere wicked lawlessness. But now we are delivered from the law, having died in that (not that being dead) in which we were held. We were, as thus alive, under the bond of our first husband—law. But we have died and the bond has ceased—cannot exist, for we are to another. Thus we have the doctrine and its application to us, the cessation of relationship with the law, its bond and authority over us, by our having died in Christ, and this state brought more strongly out by our being to another, Christ risen from the dead; but hereby the character of our service changed, it is in newness of Spirit, not in oldness of the letter.
The apostle now proceeds to discuss the operation of law on man in the flesh. Is the law to be charged with being sin because the motions of sin, as he had said, were by it? That is not it all; but this is true, he would not have known sin but for the law. No doubt, if he had been a criminal, natural conscience might have pressed on him. But he would not have known lust unless the law had said, “Thou shalt not lust.” Crimes, sins against natural conscience, he might have felt; but sin would have been hidden from him—inward sin, lust, his state of sin. For of this the apostle specially speaks as the real question. In his own case he was blameless. Often the work is much deeper and more painful when there is only inward sin. A wicked sinner stops at the outward fruits, sees his guilt, and that it is gone. The man in whom evil is more refined sees it more twisted round his heart and difficult to overcome. The wicked man, no doubt, will have to judge lust; but often, if he is tempted by it and resists, he is happy in victory: the other is desolate because he finds it there. The inward man is far more exercised than in the case of positive wickedness. However, to have solid peace, the principle and root must be judged, and with this especially we have to do here.
Chapter 3 had judged sins and applied the blood; we have now the discovering of sin in the flesh, a still more terrible enemy, one which presses on the spirit more than past sins, where the heart is in earnest. Through the precious blood of Christ we can understand that a God of love has forgiven the sins that are bygone and now not loved; but to have it still there as a principle, working in the shape of lust, this is a burden and a grief. How am I forgiven, how accepted, if this be so? Yet the flesh lusts. Natural conscience takes little heed of this. But the law comes and says, “Thou shalt not lust.” Sin profits by this prohibition, attacks the conscience; it says to us, There, you have broken the law, you are under the curse. And so, as far as that goes, we are. The conscience was easy, felt no judgment of death on it, till the law came; but when the commandment came, sin took fresh vigour—took the commandment as a base of attack against the conscience, and brought the sentence of death upon the soul. And the law which was to life—for it said, Do this and live—the soul finds to be to death. These two, then, are the effects of law upon living man, man in the flesh. It provokes concupiscence, it brings death on the conscience. Sin profits by the commandment, which, by restraining, rouses the will and suggests the lust, to deceive and slay the soul. Was it then the fault of the law? No; the law was holy, just, and good. Was that which was good the cause of death? No; but it brought out into evidence the true character of sin, that turned what was good into death; and sin by the commandment became exceeding sinful. Such is the operation of law on a man having lusts and self-will, that is, on every child of Adam who comes under it. Such is man in the flesh under law.
The apostle now turns to the way the actual experience of one in this condition presents itself to him who, being free, can calmly estimate the working of a soul in that state; can read aright what passes in it; who knows what law is, being partaker of divine teaching in a spiritual nature; and can judge what flesh is, because he is not under its influence. We, we Christians, know that the law is spiritual, but he does not say “we” (that would be saying Christians were carnal, as such, whereas they are spiritual men), but “I am carnal [he puts the case], sold under sin.” That is the man in the flesh under law. What the reader has to remark here is, that the whole subject is the law, and that Christ and the Spirit are not mentioned. He consents to the law that it is good, delights in it after the inner man, but knows nothing of redemption or the Spirit. His husband is the first one—the law; not the second —the risen Christ.
But we have fuller detail than this, experimental discovery of the truth of his state by the conflict that was going on. First of all, he has found a carnal “I,” sold under sin; that is, captive to it as a slave, for he did not allow what he did, nor do what he would, but did what he hated. But if he would not do it, it was consenting in his will to the law that it was good; but if he did so consent, it was not that he was doing it, for he would not do it though he did. It was sin dwelling in him. Here the apostle teaches him the meaning of his experience. There is an “I” distinct from the sinful principle: an “I “that was not his flesh; and he could look at the sinful working of the flesh as being from sin that dwelt in him, not from the “I,” which he was conscious was his own inmost will.
But he learnt another truth. In him as born of Adam, that is, in his flesh, there dwelt no good thing at all; for even when he willed to do good, the other was only a hindrance. To will was present with him, but how to perform that which was good he found not. But this brought out a second truth: he had no strength to do good when he willed to do it. For the good he willed he did not do, and the evil he hated that he did. In verse 20, the “I,” in “I would not,” is emphatic. So it is in “no more I that do it.” He now sees he does more than consent to the law in his conscience, he delights in it after the inward man, but another law in his members brings him into captivity.
But in all this he only thinks of law and self (I would, I do not; I hate, I do), not of Christ at all. But this serves, under the divine teaching which the apostle here gives us, to lead him to the discovery of, first the two natures; then that he is without strength, led captive by a law of sin which is in his members. There all his efforts end. But it is a great deal to learn: to get the knowledge of self, one’s total want of strength, of the effect of being under law; to know enough of “I” to be glad to get rid of it. This is the process of Romans 7. Peace, by progress or by victory, so as to be content with self, is found to be impossible. One has to own one’s sinfulness, and submit to the righteousness of God. It is not contentedness with one’s state, but the discovery that one needs deliverance, the work of another. “O wretched man that I am! “Man is here emphatic—such is the condition of man. If he be renewed in will and heart, with the sense of what he as man ought to be by the law, he is a man, and that is a being with evil lusts, under sin, led captive by it; one without strength for victory. But if our God has brought us to this consciousness of what we are—has wrought this work of truth in us, the grace which has wrought it will not fail in completing its work, to give peace and rest of spirit in confidence and communion with God.
In the following chapter the way of deliverance is unfolded: here only the Deliverer is named, and this truth is brought out that the deliverance is complete and immediate, and only thankfulness remains for us. Moreover, God is looked to instead of self. It is not what we are for God, and satisfaction in that, but what God is for us. Not, I am now what I would be; but, I thank God: a deep and wonderful change, the true and deepest result of all this humbling exercise, the soul occupied with God instead of self, and occupied with Him in thanksgiving. But the soul sees something more definite than this. It knows divine love and goodness, as the source of deliverance, but it knows Christ and His work as the deliverance itself; and, as to the work, the Deliverer. It is “through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The moment, in this self-knowledge (that is, the consciousness of an evil nature, and no strength), we seek, not to be better, saying, How shall I do to gain rest? but deliverance, Who shall deliver? the soul finds it, and its expression is, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The apostle has thus celebrated deliverance with thanksgiving, but the great deep truth learned in the conflict, that of the two natures, abides, and their character in view of the claim of God. With the mind he himself serves the law of God (this alone he really owns to be himself), but with the flesh the law of sin. This is not a question of deliverance, or success, or of failure; but the natural and characteristic tendency of the new and of the old man. In heaven we shall not have the old nature, the flesh; in Christ we are delivered from its power and are no longer under law, having died in Him. But that does not alter the fact, that the disposition of the new nature in itself is to serve the law of God, when it has to say to it or the thought of it, of the old, the law of sin. Nor is strength to fulfil the law in question, nor whether I am under it, but the character and disposition of the new nature.
The eighth chapter states the principle of deliverance and describes the state and security of the delivered. The law is only noticed as incapable of delivering. Even the seventh chapter comes in only indirectly, as the law did itself. What the fifth chapter does, is to place in contrast ruin in the first Adam and salvation by the Second, and to shew that this cannot be confined to those that had law; that as all connected with the first Adam were made sinners and sinned, so all connected with the Second were made righteous; the disobedience of the first bringing in sin and ruin, the obedience of the Second, and that even unto death, righteousness; but that the law entered, by the bye, that the offence might abound. Now the deliverance was twofold in its nature: Christ died for us, we are justified by His blood; much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. But He died to sin also in dying: so we, if we come to have a part with Him, have part in His death; we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. This is the deliverance: justification, death to sin, and life to God. Faith in the Christian recognises this: it is his whole state as a Christian—justified perfectly as one dead: as to sin, no more of it as to title over him, or the possibility of being charged with having it, than it has over a dead man; yet he is alive, but this is to God. For Christ, in that He liveth, lives to God, and we are alive through Him. Then just as the law came in by the bye, so does chapter 7, as a collateral point, to shew that the law could not deliver. It made sin exceeding sinful, provoked it as an occasion, and left man captive to the law of sin which is in his members. The struggles under it were useful, if there was a sense of its spirituality; because it brought the knowledge of the two distinct natures, and of our total want of strength, and that in us (that is, in our flesh) there is no good thing; so as, through grace, to cast us on the Deliverer. But all this was legal work and not deliverance, but most useful in searching out self, and casting on a deliverer, the need of which was thus fully felt.
Chapter 8 returns, after this experience under law, to the true deliverance itself in Christ. But the deliverance is a real one. It is not merely the fact of putting away the sins of the old man: that indeed, thank God, is done. By Christ’s obedience we are made righteous; we are justified by blood. But the question has been raised of sin dwelling in us, and of victory or being captive to it. Now there is deliverance and victory. But how is it arrived at? It is victory, for the law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ made free from the law of sin and death. The dominion of sin is broken, as stated in chapter 6. But how do we, I repeat, get at it? You, sinner, renewed in your mind, are you not more troubled at this principle, this law of your evil nature, which leads you captive, than even at your past sins? Certainly, if you have learned the desolateness of succumbing when you would go right, you do. How can you be forgiven and a Christian, you say, with sin having the mastery over you as it has? Is it not said that it shall not if we are under grace?
How then, you ask, can I be under grace when sin has dominion over me? I answer, Grace has wrought in you, but you are not under grace in your standing as to your conscience before God. You are under law, you are thinking of your own responsibility, and having to answer for yourself. You say to me, And am I not then responsible? have I not to answer for myself? Doubtless you are responsible. But I ask, in my turn, As a Christian or as a man? If the former, you have eternal life. If not, but the latter—and that you have to answer for yourself in the sense of bearing the consequences of what you are and have done—are you not simply and for ever lost? You are responsible: to be sure you are: but you have not yet learned that upon the ground of that responsibility it is all over with you. But you will say, Yes, I do not deny that: I could believe easily my past sins forgiven; but if they were, ought not I to be delivered from the power of sin? I answer, Yes. The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and of death. To be carnal, sold under sin, is not the true Christian state. But you have probably to learn one thing more if you thus reason— that you are without strength. We must learn, sooner or later, that in us (that is, in our flesh) there is no good thing; and that when even to will is present with us, how to perform that which is good we find not.
But there is a truth that you have not yet learned, and which, when you are once convinced of your own wretchedness, will give you infinite comfort—may be the means of setting you free, and sparing you much wearing conflict. You feel this principle of sin, this law in your members, a condemning thing, a greater proof of your wretched state before God than even the past evil fruits. It is so. It is well you do. It is the evil nature, the very sap that produced the evil fruit brought out to light. So much the better; and what is to be done? There it is in itself, it does not change, it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
How can you be relieved from the burden? Christ has died for it. God has condemned sin in the flesh. But how and where? See the grace of God: “What the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin [that is, as a sacrifice for sin], condemned sin in the flesh.” God has condemned sin in the flesh, that which is troubling you; but He has done it in Christ as a sacrifice. He, the sinless and holy One who knew no sin, not only bore our sins in His own body on the tree, but was made sin for us. Come in the likeness of sinful flesh, taking the form of man in our nature and place, though holy and sinless in it, yet in the likeness of sinful flesh, He was made a sacrifice for the putting away of sin. God condemned the whole nature and condition we are in, but for him that believes He did so in that which has put it away, just because the blessed One did suffer the condemnation of it there. It is sin, the whole thing and state and condition of our nature, that He suffered for—was made a sacrifice. He was a sacrifice for sin, not merely for sins; He did not suffer for the fruits of the tree, and leave us the evil of the tree itself to appear in before God. God condemned—has condemned—sin in the flesh; your judgment of it cannot be too bad, but He has condemned it in Christ’s being a sacrifice for it. Now you can lift up your head. The thing that has justly tormented you has been atoned for, put away out of God’s sight. Christ has died for your state of sin as for your sins. Nothing shews so clearly its unbearableness in God’s sight; only, when so shewn, it is, as existing before God, put away for ever out of His sight in the sacrifice of Christ. You, as in the flesh, have died in Him. You are not in it before God. You are in Christ, who has suffered and atoned for it, and He is risen.
I have dwelt on this, and in an experimental way, because it is the hinge of peace for an exercised soul. A person thus tormented thinks he sees clear and that he is not under the law, and is only looking for the just consequences of faith. But he is looking for victory in order to be content with self, instead of seeing it to be a condemned thing which he has no strength to get the mastery over, but that it has been condemned in the cross, and thus submitting to the righteousness of God, owning Christ to be his righteousness, and joining, so to speak, with God in condemning the flesh. This he is able to do because he knows that it is gone in the cross as to his standing with God, and that he is free. Thus he is and will be free, because now the new nature, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, acts freely in confidence in God, in grace; and he knows he is alive in it, not in the flesh before God. This has been settled. It has been condemned and put to death in Christ. He is not under it nor does he belong to it. He is not in it at all before God. The new “I” is free; the life he has from and in Christ is all he is before God. The other he may have to overcome as an enemy, but he has nothing to do with it as to his place before God. He is in Christ, not in the flesh, before Him.
To be in Christ is the scriptural opposite to being in the flesh. This opposition the apostle now proceeds to unfold, first shewing that the righteousness the law required was thus fulfilled, but not by being undey it, not by taking it as a rule, but by walking after the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit, as the apostle remarks in Galatians, no divine law can condemn. We love our neighbours and so fulfil it. The two natures are opposed. It is not now a law given to the old and sinful one. What characterises the sinner and the saint is walking after the flesh and after the Spirit. It is not merely such an such an act condemned, but whatever is not of the Spirit—does not flow from the Spirit—flows from some source in us. There is but one other, the flesh.
They, then, that are after the Spirit walk on this principle, live by this life; mind, have their minds set on, the things of the Spirit. Those after the flesh, that live taking what the flesh wills for their object and sole motive and guide, have their mind on the things of the flesh. Now the mind of the flesh is death, the mind of the Spirit life and peace. All the workings of the desire and will of the flesh end in death—yea, have the principle of death in them, for it is a living without God. It works apart from God, turns its back on Him, and passes on into death; while the free energy of divine life before God and peace of heart is the condition of those who walk in the mind of the Spirit, that is, the thoughts fixed on what the Spirit reveals and introduces into. The mind, the union of desire and will, of the flesh, is enmity against God. It not only goes its own way with lusts contrary to God’s nature, but it would not have God to control or hinder it, and, as He must, it is enmity against Him. His law claims obedience on His authority. It is not subject and cannot be, or it ceases to be flesh—is not. So “they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” In its nature—will, lusts—it is against God; it is not, if it is not this: of course, it cannot please Him, but is contrary to Him. They that stand on this ground before God cannot, of course, please Him. Such is the hopeless condition of man as in the flesh. But this is not the Christian standing at all. He is not in the flesh: “Ye are not in the flesh,” not standing as a child of Adam in your natural place as born after the flesh, and to answer for yourself according to law. Ye are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwell in you.
Mark, now, the steps of progress. They that are after the Spirit mind the things of the Spirit: this is characteristic. Next, this is life and peace. Next, we are in the Spirit if the Spirit of God dwells in us. Further on he shews us that not only is our standing in the Spirit; not only that which we have by the Spirit dwelling in us, is what characterises us as living persons in God’s sight; but that we are sons, heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, the true Son and Heir of all things. The man lives in and by the Spirit, and God sees him only as having this life; for this is what He has made him. The flesh is not himself, as we have seen; it is a mere enemy to be overcome: we are no longer in it before God.
This Spirit, whose presence in the believer characterises him, is spoken of in a threefold aspect here. It is the Spirit of God as contrasted with the flesh. It is in nature, source, character, divine. Next, as the Spirit of Christ, it shews us as being of Christ, His path and walk as ours, and manifests us in His likeness. This is its formal character as displayed in this world. Still the body in which it dwells is mortal. “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus [its third character] dwell in us,” even these poor bodies, over which Satan has now no claim at all (they are Christ’s) shall be raised because of His Spirit that dwells in us.
Thus deliverance is complete in the fullest sense. The liberty of grace, in our standing in Christ through the Holy Ghost, we have; the liberty of glory we have not, and wait for. But now, if Christ be in me, this is my life; the body is to have no will or life of its own. This is always sin. A life where man wills in flesh is enmity against God. I hold it dead. If it be not, it is in it itself lawless—with law, therefore, a transgressor: what life then have I? If, as one born of Adam, I hold myself dead because that life is only sin, the Spirit is life because it produces righteousness. Hence we are not debtors to flesh at all. It is only the old man, from which we are delivered by the precious death of Christ, and our having died in Him. Flesh has no claim upon us; it has done mischief enough, it must now be silent as dead. It does not say we are debtors to the Spirit, for He is power and liberty in life in us, and by Him we mortify the deeds of the body—which end in death as they flow from sin—and live.
The first eleven verses of chapter 8 shew the deliverance even to our resurrection; verses 12, 13, give the practical abstract conclusion; verse 14 and on, shew us into what state we enter as in Christ and the Spirit, the Spirit dwelling in us. He had shewn His work in life to the end of verse 11—that is, in nature, character, and standing. Now it is His personally dwelling in us, in our bodies. This gives conscious relationship with God, and our place, as regards all around us, and our being in the body through which we are linked to the creation around us. Before, life and character: now, relationship and position, and relative feelings to all around us; this to the end of verse 28.
We are now, then, brought to the immense and blessed truth of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us personally. It bears witness with our spirits that we are the sons of God. It is not merely operations in a derived life; it is “the Spirit itself.” But practical consequences flow from His presence: we are led by the Spirit, no doubt, in a spiritual mind; still it is the Holy Ghost guiding by His direct action. But further, it is no spirit of bondage again to fear that we have received, but the Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. There is then in our spirits the consciousness of sonship, but the Holy Ghost present in us, which is a distinct fact, bears witness with it. This is true liberty, liberty with God; the heart fully free and happy with Him, redemption having wholly cleared away the old past, in the new place of sons in divine favour, and conscious of it through the Holy Ghost.
But this leads us yet onward: if we are sons, we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with the great Heir of all things— Christ Himself. But this association leads farther, and brings in sorrow, though sorrow of a divine character, so that it is really a step in advance. If we are heirs with Christ, we must suffer with Him, must tread the path He trod; and, having His Spirit in us, we must in our measure have the feelings He had. We cannot follow the world, it will be against us; but the sufferings of this short moment are, for faith, not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed in us.
We have now a view of the state of things around us as known to the Christian, and our position in it and connection with it. The sons of God are not yet manifested, and till then the whole creation groans and travails. All is tinder the ruin brought in by the first Adam, still not to be left there; but it cannot be freed till the manifestation of the sons of God. They themselves, as regards the body, belong to the old creation, though they rejoice in spirit in hope of the glory. The creation was subject to vanity (not by its own will, but through its head, man), and waits for the manifestation of the heirs of the new creation according to God: but till then it groans, as we Christians know, and travails in pain; and we, as to our body, belong to the groaning creation. We are, as to the full and final deliverance, saved in hope; we do not see it yet. In the inner man we are of the new creation and see the glorious inheritance before us, and therefore groan. We do not groan as if we had to be redeemed, or were uncertain if we are—far from that. It is because we know we are sons and heirs of God’s inheritance that we feel the burden of a body which can have no part in it. We groan, not because we are uncertain if our soul is saved, and that we have no power against evil in ourselves as being in the flesh, but because being free we are burdened. As sons and heirs of God we have the joy of our relationship, and the bright and sure hope of the inheritance. The last we have not yet; and, as to our bodies, they belong to the old creation, and we are awaiting the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies—not our redemption, this we know in Christ, but that of our bodies. We groan because of the knowledge of our being children, while the vessel is of the old thing, unredeemed as to power.
But this puts us in a very blessed, and, in its nature, divine place. Through our bodies, we take up the sorrow, and sympathise with it. The state of things, the power of death, and general ruin, makes us groan, as Christ at the tomb of Lazarus; but it is according to God. We see sorrow and evil—we who have tasted by the Spirit of Christ everlasting good, and are animated with the spirit of love as He was; for however feeble ours may be, yet His Spirit must be as He was. We have not perhaps knowledge enough to discern what to ask for, but the groan expresses the want. He who searches the hearts (that is, ours, for it is our feeling in love and hence in grief) knows the feelings and mind, the purpose of thought, produced by the Spirit. This is the feeling produced in us according to the Spirit; but it is more, it is the Spirit Himself who is there, for the Spirit makes intercession for the saints according to God.
Thus, as regards the inner man, the Holy Ghost gives us the consciousness -of being sons, of our relationship with God, through the grace that has redeemed us, and we look to be manifested in glory when the creation shall be delivered. As regards the body, and the old creation to which it belongs, He takes part in our infirmities, taking up for and in us, and teaching us to take up in divine love, the sorrows of a groaning creation. “What a wondrous place, what a privilege to be of it! This is analogous to Christ, for sin is not here in question, but only its present sorrowful fruits. He felt perfect sympathy with sorrow as being a man, and a divine sympathy, but perfectly, and perfect in it, as a man; we, no doubt, imperfectly, and with sad defect in love, yet by the spirit of Christ—not in selfishness, but according to God. We suffer where Christ suffered, and by His spirit; and groan where He groaned, as we shall be blessed and reign where He reigns.
This closes the second part of the chapter, where the personal presence of the Holy Ghost, as the power of joy and hope in the consciousness of sonship with God, and as the helper in our infirmities, by reason of the vessel in which we are linked to the old creation, is unfolded to us.
The residue of the chapter speaks of God being for us, not of His work and presence in us. We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but we do know (such is the connection that all things work together for good to them that love God; and the source and security of all is set forth; they were called according to His purpose; He foreknew them, predestinated them to be conformed to the image of His Son, called them, justified them, glorified them. God (says the apostle, in the name of all the saints) is for us; who can be against us? Nor is this all. As regards the way of assuring us, He is for us in the gift of His Son. This secures to the heart His freely giving us with Him all things. Nor is this all—there is the question of guilt: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” (Compare Zech. 3.) Is Satan to cast into the fire a brand God has just plucked out on purpose? And note, there God spoke for Joshua; and so here. It is God that justifieth, who is to condemn then? He does not say “justified before God,” but God justifies—who then can condemn? But there is more; there are the difficulties and dangers of the way—death, hostile principalities, the glorious height where Christ is: is He not too far above? Christ has died, yea more, He is risen. He makes, if He is on high, intercession for us. He who has so loved us, fills all things from the death He has overcome and left behind Him to the throne of God where He is not less for us than when on the cross, is not changed. Tribulation they were in, killed like sheep: was not He, in love to them? All the sorrows, even to death, were the proofs of His love. As to constancy of love, what could separate? as to power, all against us overcome; as to temptation and trial, all gone through. All besides are but creature difficulties or powers, they cannot separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Thus, great as the blessing is, great as the dangers are, we are secured to enjoy the one and to get through the others, more than conquerors, by God being for us, through Him that loved us. They are the trials of a redeemed spirit, who has the Spirit of God as the source of his life, and dwelling in him; set free, through the work of Christ from all that his flesh involved him in; passing—in the consciousness that he is a child of God, His heir, and joint-heir with Christ, in a body not yet redeemed by power from its old creation state—through a world of sorrow, but knowing that God is for him. Not the sorrows of a soul overcome by sin, and groaning under captivity; but one set free, and feeling the sorrow sin has brought in, and the burden of an unredeemed body (not in captivity to the law of sinful flesh), according to God.