Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Romans 8: Part Two [on Romans 8:12-39]

The previous post discussed Romans 8:1-11. To summarize:

(i) Romans 8:1 seems to follow as a consequence to 7:6, which in turn was part of an analogy that seeked to bolster up 6:14.

(ii) What is the general summary of Romans 8:1-11? It seems to be this:

There is therefore [via 7:6, which in turn comes from 6:14] now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus, and this lack of condemnation in turn arises because the authority and direction provided by the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer has in Christ Jesus set the believer free from the law [in the sense of its condemning us] and death [ultimate spiritual death]. And if we ask just how the Holy Spirit has "in Christ Jesus" set us free from the law of sin and death, the answer is that God sent His Son, who assumed fallen human nature while remaining fully Himself, and, in the physical body of Christ, condemned sin decisively. As a result of all of this, the righteous requirement of the law [all the commandments viewed as a unity] is fulfilled in the believer, who walks according to the guiding and authority of the Holy Spirit [but still often falls to sin and his fallen nature --- Romans 7:13-25] and is not the subject of the tyranny of sin's untrammeled reign over him [that is, he can manfully begin to meaningfully resist sin's usurpation of his being, even though he will often lose whatever battles may come to pass]. There is nothing in common between submitting to the guidance and authority of the Holy Sprit and letting the sinful nature express itself fully --- but believers most assuredly are in the category of those who have the indwelling Spirit commanding their attention and guiding them [as compared to believers being in the category of still being completely subservient to their sinful nautre]. This assurance comes from the fact that on Judgement Day believers shall be quickened by the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, which in turn comes from the fact that Jesus Christ was quickened by God.

(iii) There seem to be three more sections of Romans 8: 8:12-16, 8:17-30, and 8:31-39. Relative to the densely packed wording and less-than-obvious flow of Paul's thoughts in 8:1-11, these sections seem [at least to this student of Romans] much more straightforward, and they provide the student a respite as he grapples and seeks to wrestle with the profound Spirit-inspired truths found in this epistle.

With (i)-(iii) at hand, we may now begin the actual new content of this post.

Romans 8:12-16

The first question deals with just how this block of the text relates, if it relates at all, to the previous material. We note the double logical connective in 8:12 [ara oun], "accordingly then" or "therefore then" or some English rendering that emphatically gives the sense of a conclusion. 8:12 might be translated as "Accordingly then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh so that we live according to the flesh..."
The question is thus "Accordingly then relative to what?" or "How does the claim that we are not debtors to the flesh relate to the previous material?"

My natural instincts tell me that the conclusion that we are debtors not to the flesh follows from the entire block of text 8:1-11. Cranfield [p 394] takes this view, and apparently it seems obvious enough [to him] that he merely states this as a given. On the other hand, Schreiner [pp 418-9] indicates that 8:12 follows from not 8:1-11, but from 8:5-11. That is, Schreiner believes that 8:5-11, which is "Believers can keep the law because they are constituted by the Spirit rather than the flesh" provides the basis for making the conclusion that we are debtors not to the flesh. But at the same time, Schreiner states that verses 8:5-11 "are not to be sundered from verses 1-4," so whatever route we take, the practical implications don't seem to be any different. It therefore seems natural to view 8:12-16 as following from 8:1-11. [Note that Schreiner view the second block of Romans 8 as 8:12-17, not 8:12-16.]

Paul states in 8:12 that "We are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh..." which means that we do not owe our sinful nature anything, that we let it rule over us as we seek to indulge it. The natural consequence to this statement would be something like "we are instead debtors to the Spirit, to live according to the Spirit." However, Paul does not state this natural anticipated statement. It seems that 8:13a, instead of giving the apodosis "we are instead debtors to the Spirit etc," contains a further warning regarding letting one's life be regulated by the desires of the sinful nature, namely, those who let their lives be regulated by the desires of their sinful natures will die. On the other hand, 8:13b has the corresponding statement that those who, through the Spirit's agency, put to death their sinful deeds, they shall live eternally in the sense that they share eternity basking in the full communion with God that God intended there to be between His creation and Himself.

Paul still has not given the apodosis "We are debtors to the Spirit etc" to the protasis "We are debtors not to the flesh etc" in 8:12. And in 8:14, the apodosis is still absent, for Paul wants to expand on 8:13b. Why is it the case that those who by the Spirit's agency put to death the deeds wrought by the desires of their sinful nature shall live? 8:14 answers this: those who by the Spirit's agency put to death the deeds of their sinful nature shall live because all who are led by the Spirit of God are His sons. But what sort of argument is this? It is not completely obvious to this student just how the statement "as many as are led by the Spirit of God are God's sons" supports the statement that "if, by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body, you shall live." The idea seems to be that God would not condemn His children, that is, God would not condemn those on whom He has conferred sonship with all of the rights and privileges pertaining to sonship. This seems to fit Paul's thought.

We now turn to 8:15, noting that the expected apodosis of 8:12 ["we are debtors to the Spirit, to live according to the Spirit]" is still missing. Again, 8:15 has a logical connective: "For [gar] you did not receive a spirit of servitude to lead you back into fear, but you received a Spirit of sonship by which we cry 'Abba, Father.'" The question here becomes just how the fact that Christians do not have a spirit of servitude but a Spirit of sonship is said to follow from what has been said earlier. It seems natural to this student to be that 8:15 follows from 8:14 in the sense that Paul in 8:15 reminds the Romans that they are the sons of God mentioned in 8:14, that is, the Romans are those who are led by the Spirit, having His aid in their daily putting to death the thoughts and deeds wrought by their sinful nature. Here Cranfield [p 396] and Schreiner [p 422] follow suit.

I agree with the following lovely words of Cranfield [p 401]:

Verse 15 (which in its turn will be confirmed by v16) harks back with its confident positive assertion, "you recieved a spirit of sonship," to the fundamental indicatives of 8:1-11 which are the context and presupposition of vv 12ff, and gives to the obligation "to live according to the Spirit", which was implied but never expressed in v12, its final and definitive expression in the relative clause "by Whom we cry 'Abba, Father.'" This then is what it means to live after the Spirit, to mortify by the Spirit the deeds of the body, and to be led by the Spirit of God --- simply to be enabled by that same Spirit to cry 'Abba, Father.' And it is here expressed not as an imperative but as an indicative: Christians do as a matter of fact do this. The implicit imperative is that they should continue to do just this, and do it more and more consistently, more and more sincerely, soberly, and responsibly. This is all that is required of them. It is what the whole law of God is aimed at achieving. Al that must be said about the Christian's obedience has been already said in principle when this has been said. Nothing more is required of us than that we should cry to the one true God 'Abba, Father' with full sincerity and with full seriousness. That his necessarily includes seeking with all our heart to be and think and say and do what is well-pleasing to Him and to avoid all that displeases Him, should go without saying. In the accomplishment of this work of obedience the "righteous requirement of the law" [v4] is fulfilled and God's holy law established.

Given Paul's usage of connecting particles, 8:16 is asyndetic --- no particle connecting it to what has been stated is present. However, it seems quite clear that 8:16 ["the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are children of God"]follows from 8:15 in that Paul views 8:16 as giving the grounds for 8:15. That is, what forms the grounding or basis for our crying out 'Abba, Father,' a crying that is enabled by the Holy Spirit? 8:16 provides the answer, namely, that "no less an authority than God Himself in His Spirit has assured us --- and continues to assure us --- that we are His children. The knowledge that we are God's children (not to be confused with any merely natural desire of weak human beings to feel that there is someone greater and stronger than themselves who is kindly disposed to them) is something which we cannot impart to ourselves: it has to be given to us from outside and beyond ourselves --- from God. Verse 16 is Paul's solemn and emphatic statement that this knowledge has been given to us. This knowledge is not to be identified with our calling God 'Father': it is rather the warrant for it. And the Spirit's imparting of it is not to be identified simply with His immediate inspiration of the prayer 'Abba, Father' (not even when that is understood as we have suggested it in the widest sense, as embracing all the obedience of Christians), but rather with His whole work of enabling us to believe in Jesus Christ, through whom alone we may rightly call God 'Father' ." [Cranfield pp 402-3]

We are now in a position to attempt a working summary of 8:12-16. The thought flow might be described in the following paraphrase of Paul:

By virtue of what I've said in 8:1-11, you Romans are debtors --- not to the flesh to live according to it [which would result in spiritual death], but are instead you are to mortify your sinful natures according to the Spirit's leading and hence live eternally. The fact that the Spirit leads you shows that you, yes you, are sons of God, and, furthermore, the Spirit allows you to truly and meaningfully address and view God as your Father. Not only do I assert this, but the Holy Spirit bears witness with me that you are [as just stated] children of God.

Romans 8:17-30

One can debate whether 8:17-30 is a separate section of Pauline thought, or if it is a continuation of 8:12-16. What isn't debatable is the fact that in 8:17-30 St Paul, having just stated in 8:16 that the Romans are in fact children of God, a fact to which the Holy Spirit Himself bears witness, now moves to the implications of being children of God, the implication being that the Christian life consists of [among other thing] hope.

Let's begin the examination. As usual, all translations [or mistranslations!] are mine.

8:17 And if [we are] children, [we are] also heirs; heirs of God on the one hand, fellow-heirs with Christ on the other hand, seeing as we suffer [with Christ] with the result that we shall be glorified together [with Him?].

Here, if I understand Paul correctly, he is presenting the worldly sufferings and tribulations of Christians as a pledge or guarantee of future glorification. So, far from the travails of life being something to make us doubt God's providence and care, we are to view sufferings as a promissory note for our future glorification, a glorification which will exclude once and for all any sort of suffering. Of course, when confronted with suffering and such, it is quite a difficult thing even for the mature believer to view his sufferings as a guarantee of future glorification.

8:18 "For gar I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory about to be revealed in connection with us."

What is the function of the "for" (gar) at the beginning of 8:18, the lead verse for this section? The obvious answer seems to be that 8:18 is a buttressing to 8:17, which asserts that the Spirit Himself testifies to our conscience that we are children of God.

The question now becomes just how Paul reckons that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared to the coming glory to be revealed in us. 8:19-23 seem to contain the answer.

8:19 For the eager expectation of creation awaits the revelation of the sons of God.
8:20 For creation was made subject to vanity, [not willingly, but by the one (God) sujecting it (to vanity)], in hope,
8:21 because even [or also] creation itself shall be freed from the servitude of corruption in the freedom of the glory of the sons of God.
8:22 For we know that all creation groans and agonizes with one accord up to the present time,
8:23 and not only do I say this, but I also say that we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit eagerly await our adoption --- that is, we eagerly await the redemption of our bodies.

Note the poetic language of Paul here: the creation "shall be freed," and creation "groans and agonizes with one accord."

Side question: what is "creation" (ktisis) here? The most probable answer to this student seems to be that it refers to the sum totality of God's sub-human creations.

So, how does Paul reckon that the sufferings of the present life are so minor relative to the future glory that it isn't meaningful to attempt a comparison?
The answer from 8:19-23 seems to be twofold:

(i) Because the sufferings of the present life are so minor relative to the future glory because no less than creation [here personified] itself, having been subjected to its futile state through the Fall, painfully yet eagerly awaits or glorification.

(ii) Because we already have the firstfruits of the Spirit, which, if I understand Paul's thought correctly, assure us that much more [and what is much better] is yet to come.

As a side note on creation: vv 20-22 indicate that our world today is frustrated according to the original intent of its creation, namely, our world today, using Paul's figurative language wishes to serve mankind, but, it cannot, itself being subjected to the bondage of corruption. "We may think of the whole magnificent theatre of the universe together with all its spelndid properties and all the chorus of sub-human life, created to glorify God but unable to do so fully, so long as man the cheif actor in the drama of God's praise fails to contribute his rational part." [Cranfield p 414]

As a second side note, the syntax of 8:20 is confusing. 8:20 states that "For creation was made subject to vanity, [not willingly, but by the one (God) sujecting it (to vanity)], in hope etc." What does the "in hope" mean? Cranfield [p 414] has an answer that seems as good as any: "The creation was not subjected to frustration without any hope: the divine judgement included the promise of a better future, when at last the judgement would be lifted. Paul possibly had in minde the promise in Gen 3:15 that the woman's seed would bruise the serpent's head. Hope for the creation was included within the hope for man." On the other hand, Schreiner [p 436] admits that Paul has overloaded the sentence [what a surprise!], making the thought difficult to follow, but in the end he [Schreiner] views "in hope" as that "...though God subjected creation to futility, it also has the sure confidence that it will be liberated from corruption." Paul needs to write more economical sentences while remembering that 21st century students are trying to interpret him!

As a third side note, what are the "firstfruits of the Spirit" given in (ii)? It seems to this student that the firstfruits of the Spirit represent (a) the evidences provided to us that the Spirit dwells within us, and (b) the guidance and authority that the Spirit exercises over our lives. Cranfield [p 418] seems to indicate as much, referring the firstfruits of the Spirit as "His present work in us."

We now turn to 8:24-25.

8:24 For we were saved in hope; hope [in something] seen is not hope, for who hopes in what he [already] sees?

8:25 But if we hope in that which we do not see, we eagerly and steadfastly await it.

Side note: Cranfield takes "in hope" as modal, Schreiner takes "in hope" to be an associative dative: "[the dative "in hope"] signifies that hope is the companion of salvation and inseparable from it." I prefer Schreiner over Cranfield, here.

What is the function of 8:24-25? The only answer that seems palatable to this student is that 8:24-25 amplify [in some fashion] 8:23: there, it was stated that we eagerly await the redemption of our bodies while having the firstfruits of the Spirit as a pledge to the reality of this coming redemption. How do 8:24-25 amplify 8:23, if indeed we're correct in making the claim that 8:24-25 amplify 8:23? The answer isn't obvious. Paul is talking about hope and the fact that what we're hoping for, while a reality, is not seen nor made manifest just yet. I see in 8:23 the mention that we await our adoption, that is, we await the redemption of our bodies; and, 8:25 concludes that we eagerly and steadfastly await the fulfillment of such a hope. Therefore, the answer for this student seems to be that 8:24-25 merely states in a different fashion that we have a firm and certain hope for the redemption of our bodies. Schreiner, pp 439-440, states something slightly different:

Verses 24-25, explain the exchatological thrust of verse 23, emphasizing that the hope that believers long for is still future. Interestingly, Paul speaks of salvation in the past, whereas he most often locates salvation in the eschaton (Rom 5:9, 10, 13:11, 1 Cor 3:15, 5:5, Phil 1:19, 1 Thess 5:19, 1 Tim 2:15, 4:16, 2 Tim 4:18). Yet even here the future dimension of salvation is not lost, for he adds the words "in hope", thereby anticipating the completion of the salvation now enjoyed. The dative elpidi should not be construed as instrumental [KJV], for Paul's intention here is not to identify the means by which salvation was obtained. Most probably the dative is associative, signifying that hope is the companion of salvation and inseparable from it. Paul proceeds to provide a description of hope that is not difficult to understand. Hope is not something that is now wee, for if that which is hoped for is not realized, it is no longer a hope but an attained reality. What is emphasized again is the "not yet" character of Christian redemption, for believers do not yet "see" their resurrection bodies. In verse 25 he closes the circle by saying that if believers hope for what they do not see, then they "wait eagerly" for that hope with endurance, with the prepositional phrase denoting attendant circumstances. This last statement ties the setion together in a profound way. The thesis of this section is that the future glories are so stunning and magnificient that they render present sufferings inconqsequential. What Paul stresses in vv 23-25 is that the reaization of the glory is still a future, although certain, prospet for believers. Given the wonder of the glory awaiting believers, they should endure present sufferings with eagerness, knowing that all suffering in the present can be borne because the reward before them is incomparably delightful.

Let's now go to 8:26-27.

8:26 Likewise too, the Spirit helps with our weakness, for we do not know what thing it is necessary for us to pray, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with unexpressible groanings,

8:27 And He who searches the hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, namely, that he intercedes for the saints in accordance with God [or God's will].

On a pastoral note, these verses are very comforting [though they need to be taken in context and not viewed as a solitary unit]. Often, speaking only for myself here, I have attacks of doubt: am I "really" saved? Have I merely deluded myself into thinking that I believe when in fact I really don't? And when I pray for faith, how do I assuage the doubts that assert I'm an unregenerate man who is talking idly? Etc.
Paul, although not writing for my own existential worries and idiosyncrasies, does [unwittingly] provide a comfort of hope here, for God the Holy Spirit helps out with our weakness [and doubts are part and parcel of our weakness]. And, even if we are not sure of what to pray for [or even how to pray], we may rest assured here by Paul's very plain language that the Holy Spirit indeed assists or woeful efforts to cry out 'Abba, Father.' Furthermore, if God knows the secrets of the hearts of men, He must a fortiori be supposed to know the unspoken desires of His own Spirit. [Cranfield p 424]. Finally, woeful as we are, the Spirit intercedes for us. We have no less a co-belligerent than the Holy Spirit testifying on our behalf as we stumble, doubt, and fall as our sinful nature [Rom 7:13-25] lashes out.

The big question for 8:26-7 is just what is likewise means. Somehow, Paul is saying that the Spirit's helping with our weaknesses in 8:26-27 is like something he has previously mentioned. There are two main interpretations that I've seen for just how 8:26-27 connects with what Paul has written earlier.

(i) The comparison is this: as the creation groans and travails with one accord, and as we too groan and travail as we await the hope of our resurrection bodies, so too the Spirit groans [8:26] as He intercedes for us. [Cranfield, Dunn, et al.]

(ii) The point of comparison is that as we hope for our resurrection bodies, the Spirit Himself sustains our hope. [Schreiner, Murray, Moo, et al].

To this student, Cranfield's assertion of (i) seems rather forced. Although the groaning of creation and believers is mentioned in 8:17-25 and the groaning of the Spirit is mentioned in 8:26, the theme of groaning seems ultimately subsidiary to the big point of the believer's [and creation's] hope. It seems much more natural to go with (ii) here, and view 8:26-27 as connecting to 8:17-25 in that as we and creation have a certain hope, the Spirit Himself sustains this hope. This interpretation seems to connect what is the main theme [i.e. hope] of 8:17-25 with the implied hope given to us by 8:26-27 [we can certainly have hope when we know that the Spirit intercedes for us according to God's will and helps us in our prayers and weaknesses!]

Let's now turn to 8:28-30, the final subsection of this third section [i.e. 8:17-30] of Romans 8.

8:28-30 We know that, for those who love God, that is, for those called according to His purpose, all things work together for good. This is true because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to share in the form of the image of His Son, so that His Son might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, those same people He also called; and those He called, these same people He also justified. And those people He also justified, He also glorified.

There is a major exegetical questions that arise from the Greek text here: just how is panta sunergei to be construed? Cranfield, pp 425-8, lists no less than eight exegetical options. The arguments there are not appropriate for a blog entry that merely seeks to understand the flow of Paul's thought. On a personal aside, I found myself nodding off as I carefully studied the arguments for/against the eight positions. Please don't test me on them! [Ah, the devil is in the details.] If I'm understanding Schreiner correctly, he agrees with Cranfield's view that "all things" --- as compared to God or the Holy Spirit --- is the subject of the verb "work together," though plenty of commentators take God to be the subject of the verb "work together" [such as Metzger and Morris], while others take the Spirit to be the subject of the verb "work together" [such as Bruce and Fee]. See Schreiner pp 448-9.

What we're concerned with is the flow of Pauline thought. How do verses 8:28-30 relate to what has already been said? Schreiner here says [in a superior fashion] what my inclinations indicate [p 448]:

Believers are filled with hope because the Spirit prays according to the will of God and His requests are always answered affirmatively (Rom 8:26-7). The succeeding verses 8:28-30 reveal that the central goal of the Spirit's prayers is that believers become conformed to the image of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Believers can be confident that such a future destiny will be theirs because God works all things according to good for His children. We know that all things turn our for our good because God set His covenental affection upon us, predestined us to be like His Son, called us to salvatoin, justified us, and will certainly glorify us.

This seems to nail down just what was Paul's thought-flow here in 8:28-30.

Here's an important pastoral application. When Paul states that all things work together for the good for those who love God, what exactly is Paul saying? If this were an isolated statement of Paul, we might have sympathy for those who view their faith as entitling them to a comfortable travail-free existence in the here-and-now. We might also identify with those people who have had something seriously wrong happen in their lives [maiming, crippling, loss of fortune, destruction of property, death of a loved one, etc etc etc] and use this something to impugn God's integrity, or even His providence or, in the most extreme, even the reality of His existence. However, the statement that all things work together for the good for those who love God does not exist in isolation, but is woven in rather tightly to the tapestry of Romans 8. In the immediate context of this passage, St Paul is not talking about life-in-general, but he is talking about the hope we have in our ultimate salvation. And any natural reading of Paul [as would any natural reading of anybody else] must take the context into account. Paul is concerned here with the believer's hope in salvation and, ultimately the believer's salvation itself --- and this is the context in which all things work together for the good of those who love God. It is quite possible that, say, my life in the future will be filled with travail, as compared with the relatively easy living [who are we kidding --- EASY LIVIN' !!] that I presently have, but, if I understand Paul correctly, I must view future travails as having the ultimate benefit of working towards my salvation. Now I may be kicking and screaming like a village atheist when something bad happens, but Paul's words will put the lie to my thoughts and actions.

Note too that we are reading too much into Paul if we deduce that when bad things happen, the reason or "the how" of just how the bad thing happens to work towards the ultimate goal of our salvation will somehow be obvious. Quite often, I have seen, there is no seeming link between the bad circumstance and one's salvation. And, to be honest, when I think of, say, the athletic Christian guy who gets in a car accident and lives the rest of his life as a cripple in a wheelchair, I cannot see how this works together for his salvation. It would, personally, make me very bitter, and it would be a rather stiff test regarding just how seriously I take scripture. One can blog on it and talk about it, and, even when one is sensitive that one has an easy life while writing about "bad things," nothing is like being the victim or protagonist in whatever bad circumstances arise. Here, I suppose, we must resort to the inscrutability of God's purposes, if we cannot explain, say, the cripple situation above.

Let's now attempt a master summary of Romans 8:17-30.

Paul moves from being children of God in 8:16 to sonship in 8:17-30. This sonship allows us to be fellow-heirs of God's riches along with Christ, though we'll possibly suffer in the here-and-now. But if we do suffer and travail, this will end up being insignificant and inconsequential when viewed from the perspective of our glorification and resurrection bodies. This hope that we have in the future is attested to even by Paul's poetic references to the sub-human creation, which now exists in a state of vain ineptitude relative to the man-serving purpose for which it was originally created, for the creation itself groans and travails awaiting our liberation from corruption, which will trigger the creation's liberation from the corruption, allowing it to serve man as originally intended. And, on top of this hope, the Holy Spirit is there to help us in our lives, weaknessses, a prayers. With such a co-belligerent our hope is surely certain. And, also along the lines of our hope, we can have firm certainty that whatever happens in our lives works towards the ultimate goal of our salvation [even though it may make our present lives rather troublesome, and even though we may not see just how what happens works to salvation].

We now turn to the concluding section of Romans 8, namely, 8:31-39.

Romans 8:31-39

What is the function of this passage within Paul's thoughts here in the Epistle to the Romans? This is the first question that we must ask, as 8:31 states "What therefore shall we say to these things?" In other words, to what of the text prior to 8:31 does the therefore [oun] link? Related to this question is the question of just what Paul means by "these things" [tauta] ?

Here, in a welcome respite to the student, these questions seem [at least to me] easily answered. It seems that this section and the oun links back not only to Romans 8, but back to Romans 5-8, or, we might even say that this section's function is to give the conclusion of the text of Romans 1:1-8:30. Screiner [p 458] seems to take the view that 8:31 sums up Romans 5-8 since "the theme of hope that permeates 8:31-39 functions as an inclusio with 5:1-11, which propounded similar themes." Cranfield seems to view 8:31-39 as summing up the argument of the entire epistle [1:16-8:30] up to that point. Both Schreiner's and Cranfield's understandings of how this section links to what precedes it make good sense, and, for all practical purposes our interpretations of the particulars in this passage don't depend on who is exactly correct. "These things" will then mean the ideas and statements of Paul in 1:16-8:30 if we take Cranfield's view, or, if we take Schreiner's view, "these things" will then mean the statements of Paul in 5:1-8:30.

The tremendous hope and confidence displayed by Paul here is noteworthy. "The magnificent and exalted style in these verses is imeediately apparent, and the beauty of the txt may be unrivalled in all of Pauline literature." [Schreiner p 456.]

Viewing 8:31-39 as a summing up either of the epistle [up to that point] or of 5:1-8:30, Paul states that God is "for us," and, as a consequence, we cannot be meaningfully nor successfully opposed.

8:31 What therefore shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

But why is God for us? Or, we might ask just how is God for us? The global answer, based on all of Romans 1:1-8:30, is that God is for us in having sent His Son to bear on His fleshly incarnate body the righteous wrath of our sin, so that we may be justified by faith, which in turn leads to [among other things] peace and friendship with God [Rom 5], a transferral from sin's usurping tyranny to the servitude of righteousness [Rom 6], and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who helps us and intercedes for us [Rom 8]. The local answer though is given by 8:32, and it mirrors to a certain degree the global answer.

8:32 [God] who indeed did not spare His own Son, but gave Him over on behalf of us all, how will he not [with His Son] freely bestow all things to us?

The argument is that God is for us because [among other things] He gave His Son over on our behalf. And, viewing this giving of His Son over on our behalf as the difficult thing, Paul asserts that the less difficult thing, namely, God's freely bestowing all things to us, will easily follow as a consequence.

With this flow of thought in tow, Paul then states:

8:33 Who shall make a charge against God's elect? God is the justifier.
8:34 Who condemns [or shall condemn] [the elect] ? Christ Jesus, who died, and what's more has been riased, is at the right hand of God, and He [Jesus] too intercedes on our behalf.
8:35 Who [or what] will separate us from Christ's love? Persecution or affliction or distress or hunger or nakeness or danger or the sword?
8:36 Just as it is written: On your account we are put to death all the day; we are reckoned as sheep for the slaughter.

Verse 8:33 is asyndetic, and verses 33-36 as a whole expand on the idea that God has done the supremely difficult thing for us, not sparing His Son, and hence he is able to very easily do all lesser things, resulting in the fact that we can have the surest and most rock-solid hope possible.

It appears that 33-34 are restatements of the same question. God, having justified us, is, being God, not wrong in doing so. Having been acquitted by the highest court that there is, nobody can make charges against us. [This passage has obvious pastoral applications to the Christian whose conscience is stricken with the terrors and knowledge of sin.] God, having raised up His Son, shall surely raise us up too in the end. And, observe that, just as the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf in 8:27, here Christ is stated to intercede on our behalf. Our intercessors are therefore not fallible, wavering beings, but are none other than the Persons of the Son and the Holy Spirit. We may have full confidence that, where such Co-belligerents intercede, they shall be successful, for God cannot fail.

And 8:35-36 continues the theme of triumphant hope: though the Christian in this world is often beset with various travails and persecution [not to mention lack of material goods, though in first world countries we don't have this problem], none of these earthly phenomena can separate us from the love Christ shows us. Verse 36 is an OT citation used by Paul to make this point: we will have travails and persecution, the world will hate us, but the world-at-large is but the height of insignificance when compared with the power of Christ, namely, His love for us.

Having listed persecution, distress, etc, as the things that one might [mistakenly] think would separate us from the love of Christ in 8:35, and giving an OT citation from Psalter 44 [seeming to imply that such things will face the Christian at one time or another], Paul rounds out this subsection of Romans 8, and indeed [if I'm correct] the entire epistle up to this point, with the following words:

8:37 But in connection with all these things we are more than conquerers through Him who loved us.

8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor those things present nor those things about to nor powers

8:39 nor height nor depth nor any other created thing shall be able to separate [us] from God's love [for us] which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What are "these things" referred to in 8:37? The answer is obviously the text that immediately precedes 8:37. We may understand Paul as saying in 8:37 that "By virtue of the fact that nobody can condemn you or bring charges against you, by virtue of the fact that nobody can separate you from Christ's love, we are completely and totally victorious through God's loving agency on our behalf.

For a discussion of the terms in 8:38, reference will have to be made to the excellent commentaries out there: Murray, Moo, Morris, Cranfield, Schreiner, et al. Regardless of whatever Paul exactly meant, the list there is surely given as an emphatic statement that nothing conceivable can separate us from God's loving ultimate destiny for us.

The final summary of Romans 8:31-39 would seem to go as follows:

On the basis of what has been said so far in the epistle, we may say that God is completely for us. Since He has done the difficult thing of condemning sin in the body of His Incarnate Son, we may rest assured that nobody/nothing can successfully bring charges against us nor separate us from an eternity in full communion with God, a communion that includes Christ's love for us. Indeed, solely through God's loving agency on our behalf, the man who is justified by faith is a complete and total conqueror.

With this uplifting and triumphant note, St Paul rounds out what most consider to be the first half of this epistle.


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