Romans 8
ICC New Testament Commentary
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.


8:1-4. The result of Christ’s interposition is to dethrone Sin from its tyranny in the human heart, and to instal in its stead the Spirit of Christ. Thus what the Law of Moses tried to do but failed, the Incarnation has accomplished.

1This being so, no verdict of ‘Guilty’ goes forth any longer against the Christian. He lives in closest union with Christ. 2The Spirit of Christ, the medium of that union, with all its life-giving energies, enters and issues its laws from his heart, dispossessing the old usurper Sin, putting an end to its authority and to the fatal results which it brought with it. 3For where the old system failed, the new system has succeeded. The Law of Moses could not get rid of Sin. The weak place in its action was that our poor human nature was constantly tempted and fell. But now God Himself has interposed by sending the Son of His love to take upon Him that same human nature with all its attributes except sin: in that nature He died to free us from sin: and this Death of His carried with it a verdict of condemnation against Sin and of acquittal for its victims; 4so that from henceforth what the Law lays down as right might be fulfilled by us who regulate our lives not according to the appetites and passions of sense, but at the dictates of the Spirit.

1 ff. This chapter is, as we have seen, an expansion of χάρις τῷ Θεῷ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν in the last verse of ch. 7. It describes the innermost circle of the Christian Life from its beginning to its end—that life of which the Apostle speaks elsewhere (Colossians 3:3) as ‘hid with Christ in God.’ It works gradually up through the calm exposition and pastoral entreaty of vv. 1-17 to the more impassioned outlook and deeper introspection of vv. 18-30, and thence to the magnificent climax of vv. 31-39.

There is evidence that Marcion retained vv. 1-11 of this chapter, probably with no very noticeable variation from the text which has come down to us (we do not know which of the two competing readings he had in ver. 10). Tertullian leaps from 8:11 to 10:2, implying that much was cut out, but we cannot determine how much.

1. κατάκριμα. One of the formulae of Justification: κατάκρισις and κατάκριμα are correlative to δικαίωσις, δικαίωμα; both sets of phrases being properly forensic. Here, however, the phrase τοῖς ἐν Χ. Ἰ. which follows shows that the initial stage in the Christian career, which is in the strictest sense the stage of Justification, has been left behind and the further stage of union with Christ has succeeded to it. In this stage too there is the same freedom from condemnation, secured by a process which is explained more fully in ver. 3 (cf. 6:7-10). The κατάκρισις which used to fall upon the sinner now falls upon his oppressor Sin.

μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν, ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα. An interpolation introduced (from ver. 4) at two steps: the first clause μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν in A Db 137, f m Vulg. Pesh. Goth. Arm., Bas. Chrys.; the second clause ἀλλὰ κατὰ πνεῦμα in the mass of later authorities אc Dc E K L P&c.; the older uncials with the Egyptian and Ethiopic Versions, the Latin Version of Origen and perhaps Origen himself with a fourth-century dialogue attributed to him, Athanasius and others omit both.

2. ὁ νόμος τοῦ Πνεύματος = the authority exercised by the Spirit We have had the same somewhat free use of νόμος in the last chapter, esp. in ver. 23 ὁ νόμος τοῦ νοός, ὁ νόμος τῆς ἁμαρτίας: it is no longer a ‘code’ but an authority producing regulated action such as would be produced by a code.

τοῦ Πνεύματος τῆς ζωῆς. The gen. expresses the ‘effect wrought’ (Gif.), but it also expresses more: the Spirit brings life because it essentially is life.

ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ goes with ἠλευθέρωσε: the authority of the Spirit operating through the union with Christ, freed me, &c. For the phrase itself see on ch. 6:11

ἠλευθέρωσέ με. A small group of important authorities (א B F G m Pesh., Tert. 1/2 vel potius 2/2 Chrys. codd.) has ἠλευθέρωσέν σε. The combination of א B with Latin and Syriac authorities shows that this reading must be extremely early, going back to the time before the Western text diverged from the main body. Still it can hardly be right, as the second person is nowhere suggested in the context, and it is more probable that σε is only a mechanical repetition of the last syllable of ἠλευθέρωσε (χε). Dr. Hort suggests the omission of both pronouns (ἡμᾶς also being found), and although the evidence for this is confined to some MSS. of Arm. (to which Dr. Hort would add ‘perhaps’ the commentary of Origen as represented by Rufinus, but this is not certain), it was a very general tendency among scribes to supply an object to verbs originally without one. We do not expect a return to first pers. sing. after τοῖς ἐν Χ. Ἰ., and the scanty evidence for omission may be to some extent paralleled, e.g. by that for the omission of εὑρηκέναι in 4:1, for εἴ γε in 5:6, or for χάρις τῷ Θεῷ in 7:25. But we should hardly be justified in doing more than placing με in brackets.

ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ τοῦ θανάτου = the authority exercised by Sin and ending in Death: see on 7:23, and on ὁ νόμ. τ. πνεύμ. above.

3. τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου. Two questions arise as to these words. (1) What is their construction? The common view, adopted also by Gif. (who compares Eur. Troad. 489), is that they form a sort of nom. absolute in apposition to the sentence. Gif. translates, ‘the impotence (see below) of the Law being this that,’ &c. It seems, however, somewhat better to regard the words in apposition not as nom. but as accus.

A most accomplished scholar, the late Mr. James Riddell, in his ‘Digest of Platonic Idioms’ (The Apology of Plato, Oxford, 1877, p. 122), lays down two propositions about constructions like this: ‘(i) These Noun-Phrases and Neuter-Pronouns are Accusatives. The prevalence of the Neuter Gender makes this difficult to prove; but such instances as are decisive afford an analogy for the rest: Theaet. 153 C ἐπὶ τούτοις τὸν κολοφῶνα, ἀναγκάζω προσβιβάζων κ.τ.λ. Cf. Soph. O. T. 603 καὶ τῶνδʼ ἔλεγχον … πεύθου, and the Adverbs ἀρχήν, ἀκμήν, τὴν πρώτην, &c. (ii) They represent, by Apposition or Substitution, the sentence itself. To say, that they are Cognate Accusatives, or in Apposition with the (unexpressed) Cognate Accus., would be inadequate to the facts. For (1) in most of the instances the sense points out that the Noun-Phrase or Pronoun stands over against the sentence, or portion of a sentence, as a whole; (2) in many of them, not the internal force but merely the rhetorical or logical form of the sentence is in view. It might be said that they are Predicates, while the sentence itself is the Subject.’ [Examples follow, but that from Theaet. given above is as clear as any.] This seems to criticize by anticipation the view of Va., who regards τὸ ἀδύν. as accus. but practically explains it as in apposition to a cognate accus. which is not expressed: ‘The impossible thing of the Law … God [effected; that is He] condemned sin in the flesh.’ It is true that an apt parallel is quoted from 2 Corinthians 6:13 τὴν δὲ αὐτὴν ἀντιμισθίαν πλατύνθητε καὶ ὑμεῖς: but this would seem to come under the same rule. The argument that if τὸ ἀδύν. had been accus. it would probably have stood at the end of the sentence, like τὴν λογικὴν λατρείαν ὑμῶν in Romans 12:1, appears to be refuted by τὸν κολοφῶνα in Theaet. above. Win. Gr. § 32:7, p. 290 E. T. while recognizing the accus. use (§ lix.9, p. 669 E. T.), seems to prefer to take τὸ ἀδύν. as nom. So too Mey. Lips. &c.

(2) Is τὸ ἀδύν. active or passive? Gif., after Fri. (cf. also Win. ut sup.) contends for the former, on the ground that if ἀδύν. were passive it should be followed by τῷ νόμῳ not τοῦ νόμου. Tertullian (De Res. Carn. 46) gives the phrase an active sense and retains the gen., quod invalidum erat legis. But on the other hand if not Origen himself, at least Rufinus the translator of Origen has a passive rendering, and treats τοῦ νόμου as practically equivalent to τῷ νόμῳ: quod impossibile erat legi*. Yet Rufinus himself clearly uses impossibilis in an active sense in his comment; and the Greek of Origen, as given in Cramer’s Catena, p. 125, appears to make τὸ ἀδύν. active: ὥσπερ γὰρ ἡ ἀρετὴ ἰδίᾳ φύσει ἰσχυρά, οὕτω καὶ ἡ κακία καὶ τὰ ἀπʼ αὐτῆς ἀσθενῆ καὶ ἀδύνατα … τοῦ τοιούτου νόμου ἡ φύσις ἀδύνατός ἐστι. Similarly Cyr.-Alex. (who finds fault with the structure of the sentence): τὸ ἀδύνατον, τουτέστι τὸ ἀσθενοῦν. Vulg. and Cod. Clarom. are slightly more literal: quod impossibile erat legis. The gen. might mean that there was a spot within the range or domain of Law marked ‘impossible,’ a portion of the field which it could not control. On the whole the passive sense appears to us to be more in accordance with the Biblical use of ἀδύν. and also to give a somewhat easier construction: if τὸ ἀδύν. is active it is not quite a simple case of apposition to the sentence, but must be explained as a sort of nom. absolute (‘The impotence of the Law being this that,’ &c., Gif.), which seems rather strained. But it must be confessed that the balance of ancient authority is strongly in favour of this way of taking the words, and that on a point—the natural interpretation of language—where ancient authority is especially valuable.

An induction from the use of LXX and N. T. would seem to show that ἀδύνατος masc. and fem. was always active (so twice in N. T., twenty-two times [3 vv. 11.] in LXX, Wisd. 17:14 τὴν ἀδύνατον ὄντως νύκτα καὶ ἐξ ἀδυνάτου ᾅδου μυχῶν ἐπελθοῦσαν, being alone somewhat ambiguous and peculiar), while ἀδύν. neut. was always passive (so five times in LXX, seven in N. T.). It is true that the exact phrase τὸ ἀδύνατον does not occur, but in Luke 18:27 we have τὰ ἀδύνατα παρὰ ἀνθρώποις δυνατά ἐστι παρὰ τῷ Θεῷ.

ἐν ᾧ: not ‘because’ (Fri. Win. Mey. Alf.), but ‘in which’ or ‘wherein,’ defining the point in which the impossibility (inability) of the Law consisted. For ἠσθένει διὰ τῆς σαρκός comp. 7:22, 23. The Law points the way to what is right, but frail humanity is tempted and falls, and so the Law’s good counsels come to nothing.

τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱόν. The emphatic ἑαυτοῦ brings out the community of nature between the Father and the Son: cf. τοῦ ἰδίου υἱοῦ ver. 32; τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἀγάπης αὐτοῦ Colossians 1:13.

ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας: the flesh of Christ is ‘like’ ours inasmuch as it is flesh; ‘like,’ and only ‘like,’ because it is not sinful: ostendit nos quidem habere carnem peccati, Filium vero Dei similitudinem habuisse carnis peccati, non carnem peccati (Orig.-lat.).

Pfleiderer and Holsten contend that even the flesh of Christ was ‘sinful flesh,’ i.e. capable of sinning; but they are decisively refuted by Gif. p. 165. Neither the Greek nor the argument requires that the flesh of Christ shall be regarded as sinful flesh, though it is His Flesh—His Incarnation—which brought Him into contact with Sin.

καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας This phrase is constantly used in the O.T. for the ‘sin-offering’; so ‘more than fifty times in the Book of Leviticus alone’ (Va.); and it is taken in this sense here by Orig.-lat. Quod hostia pro peccato factus est Christus, et oblatus sit pro purgatione peccatorum, omnes Scripturae testantur … Per hanc ergo hostiam carnis suae, quae dicitur pro peccato, damnavit peccatum in carne, &c. The ritual of the sin-offering is fully set forth in Lev_4. The most characteristic feature in it is the sprinkling with blood of the horns of the altar of incense. Its object was to make atonement especially for sins of ignorance. It was no doubt typical of the Sacrifice of Christ. Still we need not suppose the phrase περὶ ἁμαρτ. here specially limited to the sense of ‘sin-offering.’ It includes every sense in which the Incarnation and Death of Christ had relation to, and had it for their object to remove, human sin.

κατέκρινε τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκί. The key to this difficult clause is supplied by ch. 6:7-10. By the Death of Christ upon the Cross, a death endured in His human nature, He once and for ever broke off all contact with Sin, which could only touch Him through that nature. Henceforth Sin can lay no claim against Him. Neither can it lay any claim against the believer; for the believer also has died with Christ. Henceforth when Sin comes to prosecute its claim, it is cast in its suit and its former victim is acquitted. The one culminating and decisive act by which this state of things was brought about is the Death of Christ, to which all the subsequent immunity of Christians is to be referred.

The parallel passage, 6:6-11, shows that this summary condemnation of Sin takes place in the Death of Christ, and not in His Life; so that κατέκρινε cannot be adequately explained either by the proof which Christ’s Incarnation gave that human nature might be sinless, or by the contrast of His sinlessness with man’s sin. In Matthew 12:41, Matthew 12:42 (‘the men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judgement with this generation, and shall condemn it,’&c.) κατακρίνειν has this sense of ‘condemn by contrast,’ but there is a greater fulness of meaning here.

The ancients rather miss the mark in their comments on this passage. Thus Orig.-lat. damnavit peccatum, hoc est, fugavit peccatum et abstulit (comp. T. K. Abbott, ‘effectually condemned so as to expel’): but it does not appear how this was done. The commoner view is based on Chrys., who claims for the incarnate Christ a threefold victory over Sin, as not yielding to it, as overcoming it (in a forensic sense), and convicting it of injustice in handing over to death His own sinless body as if it were sinful. Similarly Euthym.-Zig. and others in part. Cyr.-Alex. explains the victory of Christ over Sin as passing over to the Christian through the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and the Eucharist (διὰ τῆς μυστικῆς εὐλογίας). This is at least right in so far as it lays stress on the identification of the Christian with Christ. But the victory over sin does not rest on the mere fact of sinlessness, but on the absolute severance from sin involved in the Death upon the Cross and the Resurrection.

ἐν τῇ σαρκί goes with κατέκρινε. The Death of Christ has the efficacy which it has because it is the death of His Flesh: by means of death He broke for ever the power of Sin upon Him (6:10; Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18); but through the mystical union with Him the death of His Flesh means the death of ours (Lips.).

4. τὸ δικαίωμα: ‘the justifying,’ Wic., ‘the justification,’ Rhem. after Vulg. iustificatio; Tyn. is better, ‘the rightewesnes requyred of (i.e. by) the lawe.’ We have already seen that the proper sense of δικαίωμα is ‘that which is laid down as right,’ ‘that which has the force of right’: hence it = here the statutes of the Law, as righteous statutes. Comp. on 1:32; 2:26.

It is not clear how Chrys. ( = Euthym.-Zig.) gets for δικαίωμα the sense τὸ τέλος, ὁ σκοπός, τὸ κατόρθωμα.

τοῖς μὴ κατὰ σάρκα περιπατοῦσιν: ‘those who walk by the rule of the flesh,’ whose guiding principle is the flesh (and its gratification). The antithesis of Flesh and Spirit is the subject of the next section.


8:5-11. Compare the two states. The life of self-indulgence involves the breach of God’s law, hostility to Him, and death. Submission to the Spirit brings with it true life and the sense of reconciliation. You therefore, if you are sincere Christians, have in the presence of the Spirit a sure pledge of immortality.

5These two modes of life are directly opposed to one another. If any man gives way to the gratifications of sense, then these and nothing else occupy his thoughts and determine the bent of his character. And on the other hand, those who let the Holy Spirit guide them fix their thoughts and affections on things spiritual. 6They are opposed in their nature; they are opposed also in their consequences. For the consequence of having one’s bent towards the things of the flesh is death—both of soul and body, both here and hereafter. Just as to surrender one’s thoughts and motives to the Spirit brings with it a quickened vitality through the whole man, and a tranquillizing sense of reconciliation with God.

7The gratifying of the flesh can lead only to death, because it implies hostility to God. It is impossible for one who indulges the flesh at the same time to obey the law of God. 8And those who are under the influence of the flesh cannot please God. 9But you, as Christians, are no longer under the influence of the flesh. You are rather under that of the Spirit, if the Spirit of God (which, be it remembered, is the medium of personal contact with God and Christ) is really in abiding communion with you. 10But if Christ, through His Spirit, thus keeps touch with your souls, then mark how glorious is your condition. Your body it is true is doomed to death, because it is tainted with sin; but your spirit—the highest part of you—has life infused into it because of its new state of righteousness to which life is so nearly allied. 11In possessing the Spirit you have a guarantee of future resurrection. It links you to Him whom God raised from the dead. And so even these perishable human bodies of yours, though they die first, God will restore to life, through the operation of (or, having regard to) that Holy Spirit by whom they are animated.

5. φρονοῦσιν: ‘set their minds, or their hearts upon.’ φρονεῖν denotes the whole action of the φρήν, i.e. of the affections and will as well as of the reason; cf. Matthew 16:23 οὐ φρονεῖς τὰ τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀλλὰ τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων: Romans 12:16; Php 3:19; Colossians 3:2, &c.

6. φρόνημα: the content of φρονεῖν, the general bent of thought and motive. Here, as elsewhere in these chapters, σάρξ is that side of human nature on which it is morally weak, the side on which man’s physical organism leads him into sin.

θάνατος. Not merely is the φρόνημα τῆς σαρκός death in effect, inasmuch as it has death for its goal, but it is also a present death, inasmuch as its present condition contains the seeds which by their own inherent force will develop into the death both of body and soul.

ζωή. In contrast with the state of things just described, where the whole bent of the mind is towards the things of the Spirit, not only is there ‘life’ in the sense that a career so ordered will issue in life; it has already in itself the germs of life. As the Spirit itself is in Its essence living, so does It impart that which must live.

For a striking presentation of the Biblical doctrine of Life see Hort, Hulsean Lectures, pp. 98 ff., 189 ff. The following may be quoted: ‘The sense of life which Israel enjoyed was, however, best expressed in the choice of the name “life” as a designation of that higher communion with God which grew forth in due time as the fruit of obedience and faith. The psalmist or wise man or prophet, whose heart had sought the face of the Lord, was conscious of a second or divine life, of which the first or natural life was at once the image and the foundation; a life not imprisoned in some secret recess of his soul, but filling his whole self, and overflowing upon the earth around him’ (p. 98). Add St. Paul’s doctrine of the indwelling Spirit, and the intensity of his language becomes intelligible.

εἰρήνη = as we have seen not only (i) the state of reconciliation with God, but (ii) the sense of that reconciliation which diffuses a feeling of harmony and tranquillity over the whole man.

7. This verse assigns the reason why the ‘mind of the flesh is death,’ at the same time bringing out the further contrast between the mind of the flesh and that of the Spirit suggested by the description of the latter as not only ‘life’ but ‘peace.’ The mind of the flesh is the opposite of peace; it involves hostility to God, declared by disobedience to His Law. This disobedience is the natural and inevitable consequence of giving way to the flesh.

8. οἱ δέ: not as AV. ‘so then,’ as if it marked a consequence or conclusion from ver. 7, but ‘And’: ver. 8 merely repeats the substance of ver. 7 in a slightly different form, no longer abstract but personal. The way is thus paved for a more direct application to the readers.

9. ἐν σαρκί, … ἐν πνεύματι. Observe how the thought mounts gradually upwards. εἶναι ἐν σαρκί = ‘to be under the domination of [the] flesh’; corresponding to this εἶναι ἐν πνεύματι = ‘to be under the domination of [the] spirit,’ i.e. in the first instance, the human spirit. Just as in the one case the man takes his whole bent and bias from the lower part of his nature, so in the other case he takes it from the highest part of his nature. But that highest part, the πνεῦμα, is what it is by virtue of its affinity to God. It is essentially that part of the man which holds communion with God: so that the Apostle is naturally led to think of the Divine influences which act upon the πνεῦμα. He rises almost imperceptibly through the πνεῦμα of man to the Πνεῦμα of God. From thinking of the way in which the πνεῦμα in its best moods acts upon the character he passes on to that influence from without which keeps it in its best moods. This is what he means when he says εἴπερ Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ οἰκεῖ ἐν ὑμῖν. οἰκεῖν ἐν denotes a settled permanent penetrative influence. Such an influence, from the Spirit of God, St. Paul assumes to be inseparable from the higher life of the Christian.

The way in which έν σαρκί is opposed to ἐν πνεύματι, and further the way in which ἐν πνεύματι passes from the spirit of man to the Spirit of God, shows that we must not press the local significance of the preposition too closely. We must not interpret any of the varied expressions which the Apostle uses in such a sense as to infringe upon the distinctness of the human and Divine personalities. The one thing which is characteristic of personality is distinctness from all other personalities; and this must hold good even of the relation of man to God. The very ease with which St. Paul changes and inverts his metaphors shows that the Divine immanence with him nowhere means Buddhistic or Pantheistic absorption. We must be careful to keep clear of this, but short of it we may use the language of closest intimacy. All that friend can possibly receive from friend we may believe that man is capable of receiving from God. See the note on ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ in 6:11; and for the antithesis of σάρξ and πνεῦμα the small print note on 7:14.

εἰ δέ τις. A characteristic delicacy of expression: when he is speaking on the positive side St. Paul assumes that his readers have the Spirit, but when he is speaking on the negative side he will not say bluntly ‘if you have not the Spirit,’ but he at once throws his sentence into a vague and general force, ‘if any one has not,’ &c.

There are some good remarks on the grammar of the conditional clauses in this verse and in vv. 10, 25, in Burton, M. and T. §§469, 242, 261.

οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῦ: he is no true Christian. This amounts to saying that all Christians ‘have the Spirit’ in greater or less degree.

10. εἰ δὲ Χριστός. It will be observed that St. Paul uses the phrases Πνεῦμα Θεοῦ, Πνεῦμα Χριστοῦ, and Χριστός in these two verses as practically interchangeable. On the significance of this in its bearing upon the relation of the Divine Persons see below.

τὸ μὲν σῶμα νεκρὸν διʼ ἁμαρτίαν. St. Paul is putting forward first the negative and then the positive consequences of the indwelling of Christ, or the Spirit of Christ, in the soul. But what is the meaning of ‘the body is dead because of sin?’ Of many ways of taking the words, the most important seem to be these: (i) ‘the body is dead imputative, in baptism (6:2 ff.), as a consequence of sin which made this implication of the body in the Death of Christ necessary’ (Lips.). But in the next verse, to which this clearly points forward, the stress lies not on death imputed but on physical death. (ii) ‘The body is dead mystice, as no longer the instrument of sin (sans énergie productrice des actes charnels), because of sin—to which it led’ (Oltr.). This is open to the same objection as the last, with the addition that it does not give a satisfactory explanation of διʼ ἁμαρτίαν. (iii) It remains to take νεκρόν in the plain sense of ‘physical death,’ and to go back for διʼ ἁμαρτίαν not to 6:2 ff. but to 5:12 ff., so that it would be the sin of Adam and his descendants (Aug. Gif. Go.) perpetuated to the end of time. Oltr. objects that νὲκρόν in this case ought to be θνητόν, but the use of νεκρόν gives a more vivid and pointed contrast to ζωή—‘a dead thing.’

τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ζωὴ διὰ δικαιοσύνην. Clearly the πνεῦμα here meant is the human πνεῦμα which has the properties of life infused into it by the presence of the Divine πνεῦμα. ζωή is to be taken in a wide sense, but with especial stress on the future eternal life. διὰ δικαιοσύνην is also to be taken in a wide sense: it includes all the senses in which righteousness is brought home to man, first imputed, then imparted, then practised.

11. St. Paul is fond of arguing from the Resurrection of Christ to the resurrection of the Christian (see p. 117 sup.). Christ is the ἀπαρχή (1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23: the same power which raised Him will raise us (1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14); Php 3:21; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). But nowhere is the argument given in so full and complete a form as here. The link which connects the believer with Christ, and makes him participate in Christ’s resurrection, is the possession of His Spirit (cp. 1 Thessalonians 4:14 τοὺς κοιμηθέντας διὰ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἄξει σὺν αὐτῷ).

διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος αὐτοῦ Πνεύματος. The authorities for the two readings, the gen. as above and the acc. διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν αὐτοῦ Πνεῦμα, seem at first sight very evenly divided. For gen. we have a long line of authorities headed by א A C, Clem.-Alex. For acc. we have a still longer line headed by B D, Orig. Iren.-lat.

In fuller detail the evidence is as follows:

διὰ τοῦ ἐνοικοῦντος κ.τ.λ. א A C P2 al., codd. ap. Ps.-Ath. Dial. c. Macedon., Boh. Sah. Harcl. Arm. Aeth., Clem.-Alex. Method. (codd. Graec. locorum ab Epiphanio citatorum) Cyr.-Hieros codd. plur. et ed. Did. 4/5 Bas 4/4 Chrys. ad 1 Corinthians 15:45, Cyr.-Alex. ter, al. plur.

διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν κ.τ.λ. B D E F G K L P &c., codd. ap. Ps.-Ath. Dial. c. Macedon.; Vulg. Pesh. (Sah. codd.); Iren.-lat. Orig. pluries; Method. vers. slav. et codd. Epiphanii 1/3 et ex parte 2/3, Cyr.-Hieros. cod. Did.-lat. semel (interp. Hieron.) Chrys. ad loc. Tert. Hil. al. plur.

When these lists are examined, it will be seen at once that the authorities for the gen. are predominantly Alexandrian, and those for the acc. predominantly Western. The question is how far in each case this main body is reinforced by more independent evidence. From this point of view a somewhat increased importance attaches to Harcl. Arm. Hippol. Cyr.-Hieros. Bas. on the side of the gen. and to B, Orig. on the side of the acc. The testimony of Method. is not quite clear. The first place in which the passage occurs is a quotation from Origen: here the true reading is probably διὰ τὸ ἐνοικοῦν, as elsewhere in that writer. The other two places belong to Methodius himself. Here too the Slavonic version has in both cases acc.; the Greek preserved in Epiphanius has in one instance acc., in the other gen. It is perhaps on the whole probable that Method. himself read acc. and that gen. is due to Epiphanius, who undoubtedly was in the habit of using gen. In balancing the opposed evidence we remember that there is a distinct Western infusion in both B and Orig. in St. Paul’s Epistles, so that the acc. may rest not on the authority of two families of text, but only of one. On the other hand, to Alexandria we must add Palestine, which would count for something, though not very much, as being within the sphere of Alexandrian influence, and Cappadocia, which would count for rather more; but what is of most importance is the attesting of the Alexandrian reading so far West as Hippolytus. Too much importance must not be attached to the assertion of the orthodox controversialist in the Dial. c. Macedonios, that gen. is found in ‘all the ancient copies’; the author of the dialogue allows that the reading is questionable.

On the whole the preponderance seems to be slightly on the side of the gen., but neither reading can be ignored. Intrinsically the one reading is not clearly preferable to the other. St. Paul might have used equally well either form of expression. It is however hardly adequate to say with Dr. Vaughan that if we read the acc. the reference is ‘to the ennobling and consecrating effect of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the human body.’ The prominent idea is rather that the Holy Spirit is Itself essentially a Spirit of Life, and therefore it is natural that where It is life should be. The gen. brings out rather more the direct and personal agency of the Holy Spirit, which of course commended the reading to the supporters of orthodox doctrine in the Macedonian controversy.

The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

The doctrine of the Spirit of God or the Holy Spirit is taken over from the O.T., where we have it conspicuously in relation to Creation (Genesis 1:2), in relation to Prophecy (1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 11:6; 1 Samuel 19:20, 1 Samuel 19:23, &c.), and in relation to the religious life of the individual (Psalm 51:11) and of the nation (Isaiah 63:10 f.). It was understood that the Messiah had a plenary endowment of this Spirit (Isaiah 11:2). And accordingly in the N.T. the Gospels unanimously record the visible, if symbolical, manifestation of this endowment (Mark 1:10; John 1:32). And it is an expression of the same truth when in this passage and elsewhere St. Paul speaks of the Spirit of Christ convertibly with Christ Himself. Just as there are many passages in which he uses precisely the same language of the Spirit of God and of God Himself, so also there are many others in which he uses the same language of the Spirit of Christ and of Christ Himself. Thus the ‘demonstration of the Spirit’ is a demonstration also of the ‘power of God’ (1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 2:5); the working of the Spirit is a working of God Himself (1 Corinthians 12:11 compared with ver. 6) and of Christ (Ephesians 4:11 compared with 1 Corinthians 12:28, 1 Corinthians 12:4). To be ‘Christ’s’ is the same thing as to ‘live in the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22 ff.). Nay, in one place Christ is expressly identified with ‘the Spirit’: ‘the Lord is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:17): a passage which has a seemingly remarkable parallel in Ignat. Ad Magn. xv ἔρρωσθε ὲν ὁμονοίᾳ Θεοῦ, κεκτημένοι ἀδιάκριτον πνεῦμα, ὄς ἐστιν Ἰησοῦς Χριστός (where however Bp. Lightfoot makes the antecedent to ὅς not πνεῦμα but the whole sentence; his note should be read). The key to these expressions is really supplied by the passage before us, from which it appears that the communication of Christ to the soul is really the communication of His Spirit. And, strange to say, we find this language, which seems so individual, echoed not only possibly by Ignatius but certainly by St. John. As Mr. Gore puts it (Bampton Lectures, p. 132), ‘In the coming of the Spirit the Son too was to come; in the coming of the Son, also the Father. “He will come unto you,” “I will come unto you,” “We will come unto you” are interchangeable phrases’ (cf. St. John 14:16-23).

This is the first point which must be borne clearly in mind: in their relation to the human soul the Father and the Son act through and are represented by the Holy Spirit. And yet the Spirit is not merged either in the Father or in the Son. This is the complementary truth. Along with the language of identity there is other language which implies distinction.

It is not only that the Spirit of God is related to God in the same sort of way in which the spirit of man is related to the man. In this very chapter the Holy Spirit is represented as standing over against the Father and pleading with Him (Romans 8:26 f.), and a number of other actions which we should call ‘personal’ are ascribed to Him—‘dwelling’ (vv. 9, 11), ‘leading’ (ver. 14), ‘witnessing’ (ver. 16), ‘assisting’ (ver. 26). In the last verse of 2 Corinthians St. Paul distinctly co-ordinates the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son. And even where St. John speaks of the Son as coming again in the Spirit, it is not as the same but as ‘other’; ‘another Paraclete will He give you’ (St. John 14:16). The language of identity is only partial, and is confined within strict limits. Nowhere does St. Paul give the name of ‘Spirit’ to Him who died upon the Cross, and rose again, and will return once more to judgement. There is a method running through the language of both Apostles.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is really an extension, a natural if not necessary consequence, of the doctrine of the Incarnation. As soon as it came to be clearly realized that the Son of God had walked the earth as an individual man among men it was inevitable that there should be recognized a distinction, and such a distinction as in human language could only be described as ‘personal’ in the Godhead. But if there was a twofold distinction, then it was wholly in accordance with the body of ideas derived from the O.T. to say also a threefold distinction.

It is interesting to observe that in the presentation of this last step in the doctrine there is a difference between St. Paul and St. John corresponding to a difference in the experience of the two Apostles. In both cases it is this actual experience which gives the standpoint from which they write. St. John, who had heard and seen and handled the Word of Life, who had stood beneath the cross and looked into the empty tomb, when he thinks of the coming of the Paraclete naturally thinks of Him as ‘another Paraclete.’ St. Paul, who had not had the same privileges, but who was conscious that from the moment of his vision upon the road to Damascus a new force had entered into his soul, as naturally connects the force and the vision, and sees in what he feels to be the work of the Spirit the work also of the exalted Son. To St. John the first visible Paraclete and the second invisible could not but be different; to St. Paul the invisible influence which wrought so powerfully in him seemed to stream directly from the presence of Him whom he had heard from heaven call him by his name.


8:12-17. Live then as men bound for such a destiny, ascetics as to your worldly life, heirs of immortality. The Spirit implanted and confirms in you the consciousness of your inheritance. It tells you that you are in a special sense sons of God, and that you must some day share the glory to which Christ, your Elder Brother, has gone.

12 Such a destiny has its obligations. To the flesh you owe nothing. 13 If you live as it would have you, you must inevitably die. But if by the help of the Spirit you sternly put an end to the licence of the flesh, then in the fullest sense you will live.

14 Why so? Why that necessary consequence? The link is here. All who follow the leading of God’s Spirit are certainly by that very fact special objects of His favour. They do indeed enjoy the highest title and the highest privileges. They are His sons.

15 When you were first baptized, and the communication of the Holy Spirit sealed your admission into the Christian fold, the energies which He imparted were surely not those of a slave. You had not once more to tremble under the lash of the Law. No: He gave you rather the proud inspiring consciousness of men admitted into His family, adopted as His sons. And the consciousness of that relation unlocks our lips in tender filial appeal to God as our Father. 16 Two voices are distinctly heard: one we know to be that of the Holy Spirit; the other is the voice of our own consciousness. And both bear witness to the same fact that we are children of God. 17 But to be a child implies something more. The child will one day inherit his father’s possessions. So the Christian will one day enter upon that glorious inheritance which his Heavenly Father has in store for him and on which Christ as his Elder Brother has already entered. Only, be it remembered, that in order to share in the glory, it is necessary first to share in the sufferings which lead to it.

12. Lipsius would unite vv. 12, 13 closely with the foregoing; and no doubt it is true that these verses only contain the conclusion of the previous paragraph thrown into a hortatory form. Still it is usual to mark this transition to exhortation by a new paragraph (as at 6:12); and although a new idea (that of heirship) is introduced at ver. 14, that idea is only subordinate to the main argument, the assurance which the Spirit gives of future life. See also the note on οὖν in 10:14.

13. πνεύματι. The antithesis to σάρξ seems to show that this is still, as in vv. 4, 5, 9, the human πνεῦμα, but it is the human πνεῦμα in direct contact with the Divine.

τὰς πράξεις: of wicked doings, as in Luke 23:51.

14. The phrases which occur in this section, Πνεύματι Θεοῦ ἄγονται, τὸ Πνεῦμα συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν, are clear proof that the other group of phrases ἐν πνεύματι εἶναι, or τὸ Πνεῦμα οἰκεῖ (ἐνοικεῖ) ἐν ἡμῖν are not intended in any way to impair the essential distinctness and independence of the human personality. There is no such Divine ‘immanence’ as would obliterate this. The analogy to be kept in view is the personal influence of one human being upon another. We know to what heights this may rise. The Divine influence may be still more subtle and penetrative, but it is not different in kind.

υἱοὶ Θεοῦ. The difference between υἱός and τέκνον appears to be that whereas τέκνον denotes the natural relationship of child to parent, υἱός implies, in addition to this, the recognized status and legal privileges reserved for sons. Cf. Westcott on St. John 1:12 and the parallels there noted.

15. πνεῦμα δουλείας. This is another subtle variation in the use of πνεῦμα. From meaning the human spirit under the influence of the Divine Spirit πνεῦμα comes to mean a particular state, habit, or temper of the human spirit, sometimes in itself (πνεῦμα ζηλώσεως Numbers 5:14, Numbers 5:30; πν. ἀκηδίας Isaiah 61:3; πν. πορνείας Hosea 4:12), but more often as due to supernatural influence, good or evil (πν. σοφίας κ.τ.λ. Isaiah 11:2; πν. πλανήσεως Isaiah 19:14; πν. κρίσεως Isaiah 28:6; πν. κατανύξεως Isaiah 29:10 ( = Romans 11:8); πν. χάριτος καὶ οἰκτιρμοῦ Zechariah 12:10; πν. ἀσθενείας Luke 13:11; πν. δειλίας 2 Timothy 1:7; τὸ πν. τῆς πλάνης 1 John 4:6). So here πν. δουλείας = such a spirit as accompanies a state of slavery, such a servile habit as the human πνεῦμα assumes among slaves. This was not the temper which you had imparted to you at your baptism (ἐλάβετε). The slavery is that of the Law: cf. Galatians 4:6, Galatians 4:7, Galatians 4:24, Galatians 4:5:1.

πάλιν εἰς φόβον: ‘so as to relapse into a state of fear.’ The candidate for baptism did not emerge from the terrors of the Law only to be thrown back into them again.

υἱοθεσίας: a word coined, but rightly coined, from the classical phrase υἱὸς τἰθεσθαι (θετὸς υἱός). It seems however too much to say with Gif. that the coinage was probably due to St. Paul himself. ‘No word is more common in Greek inscriptions of the Hellenistic time: the idea, like the word, is native Greek’ (E. L. Hicks in Studia Biblica, iv. 8). This doubtless points to the quarter from which St. Paul derived the word, as the Jews had not the practice of adoption.

Ἀββᾶ, ὁ πατήρ. The repetition of this word, first in Aramaic and then in Greek, is remarkable and brings home to us the fact that Christianity had its birth in a bilingual people. The same repetition occurs in Mark 14:36 (‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to Thee’) and in Galatians 4:6: it gives a greater intensity of expression, but would only be natural where the speaker was using in both cases his familiar tongue. Lightfoot (Hor. Heb. on Mark 14:36) thinks that in the Gospel the word Ἀββᾶ only was used by our Lord and ὁ Πατήρ added as an interpretation by St. Mark, and that in like manner St. Paul is interpreting for the benefit of his readers. The three passages are however all too emotional for this explanation: interpretation is out of place in a prayer. It seems better to suppose that our Lord Himself, using familiarly both languages, and concentrating into this word of all words such a depth of meaning, found Himself impelled spontaneously to repeat the word, and that some among His disciples caught and transmitted the same habit. It is significant however of the limited extent of strictly Jewish Christianity that we find no other original examples of the use than these three.

16. αὐτὸ τὸ Πνεῦμα: see on ver. 14 above.

συμμαρτυρεῖ: cf. 2:15; 9:2. There the ‘joint-witness’ was the subjective testimony of conscience, confirming the objective testimony of a man’s works or actions; here consciousness is analyzed, and its data are referred partly to the man himself, partly to the Spirit of God moving and prompting him.

17. κληρονόμοι. The idea of a κληρονομία is taken up and developed in N. T. from O. T. and Apocr. (Ecclus, Ps. Sol., 4 Ezr.). It is also prominent in Philo, who devotes a whole treatise to the question Quis rerum divinarum heres sit? (Mang. i. 473 ff.). Meaning originally (i) the simple possession of the Holy Land, it came to mean (ii) its permanent and assured possession (Psa_25[24]:13; 36[37]:9, 11 &c.); hence (iii) specially the secure possession won by the Messiah (Isaiah 60:21; Isaiah 61:7; and so it became (iv) a symbol of all Messianic blessings (Matthew 5:5; Matthew 19:29; Matthew 25:34, &c.). Philo, after his manner, makes the word denote the bliss of the soul when freed from the body.

It is an instance of the unaccountable inequalities of usage that whereas κληρονομεῖν, κληρονομία occur almost innumerable times in LXX, κληρονόμος occurs only five times (once in Symmachus); in N. T. there is much greater equality (κληρονομεῖν eighteen, κληρονομία fourteen, κληρονόμος fifteen).

συγκληρονόμοι. Our Lord had described Himself as ‘the Heir’ in the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Matthew 21:38). This would show that the idea of κληρονομία received its full Christian adaptation directly from Him (cf. also Matthew 25:34).

εἴπερ συμπάσχομεν. St. Paul seems here to be reminding his hearers of a current Christian saying: cf. 2 Timothy 2:11 πιστὸς ὁ λόγος, Εἰ γὰρ συναπεθάνομεν καὶ συζήσομεν· εἰ ὑπομένομεν καὶ συμβασιλεύσομεν. This is another instance of the Biblical conception of Christ as the Way (His Life not merely an example for ours, but in its main lines presenting a fixed type or law to which the lives of Christians must conform); cf. p. 196 above, and Dr. Hort’s The Way, the Truth, and the Life there referred to. For εἴπερ see on 3:30.


8:18-25. What though the path to that glory lies through suffering? The suffering and the glory alike are parts of a great cosmical movement, in which the irrational creation joins with man. As it shared the results of his fall, so also will it share in his redemption. Its pangs are pangs of a new birth (vv. 18-22).

Like the mute creation, we Christians too wait painfully for our deliverance. Our attitude is one of hope and not of possession (vv. 23-25).

18 What of that? For the sufferings which we have to undergo in this phase of our career I count not worth a thought in view of that dazzling splendour which will one day break through the clouds and dawn upon us. 19 For the sons of God will stand forth revealed in the glories of their bright inheritance. And for that consummation not they alone but the whole irrational creation both animate and inanimate, waits with eager longing; like spectators straining forward over the ropes to catch the first glimpse of some triumphal pageant.

20 The future and not the present must satisfy its aspirations. For ages ago Creation was condemned to have its energies marred and frustrated. And that by no act of its own: it was God who fixed this doom upon it, but with the hope 21 that as it had been enthralled to death and decay by the Fall of Man so too the Creation shall share in the free and glorious existence of God’s emancipated children. 22 It is like the pangs of a woman in child-birth. This universal frame feels up to this moment the throes of travail—feels them in every part and cries out in its pain. But where there is travail, there must needs also be a birth.

23 Our own experience points to the same conclusion. True that in those workings of the Spirit, the charismata with which we are endowed, we Christians already possess a foretaste of good things to come. But that very foretaste makes us long—anxiously and painfully long—for the final recognition of our Sonship. We desire to see these bodies of ours delivered from the evils that beset them and transfigured into glory.

24 Hope is the Christian’s proper attitude. We were saved indeed, the groundwork of our salvation was laid, when we became Christians. But was that salvation in possession or in prospect? Certainly in prospect. Otherwise there would be no room for hope. For what a man sees already in his hand he does not hope for as if it were future. 25 But in our case we do not see, and we do hope; therefore we also wait for our object with steadfast fortitude.

18. λογίζομαι γάρ. At the end of the last paragraph St. Paul has been led to speak of the exalted privileges of Christians involved in the fact that they are sons of God. The thought of these privileges suddenly recalls to him the contrast of the sufferings through which they are passing. And after his manner he does not let go this idea of ‘suffering’ but works it into his main argument. He first dismisses the thought that the present suffering can be any real counter-weight to the future glory; and then he shows that not only is it not this, but that on the contrary it actually points forward to that glory. It does this on the grandest scale. In fact it is nothing short of an universal law that suffering marks the road to glory. All the suffering, all the imperfection, all the unsatisfied aspiration and longing of which the traces are so abundant in external nature as well as in man, do but point forward to a time when the suffering shall cease, the imperfection be removed and the frustrated aspirations at last crowned and satisfied; and this time coincides with the glorious consummation which awaits the Christian.

True it is that there goes up as it were an universal groan, from creation, from ourselves, from the Holy Spirit who sympathizes with us; but this groaning is but the travail-pangs of the new birth, the entrance upon their glorified condition of the risen sons of God.

λογίζομαι: here in its strict sense, ‘I calculate,’ ‘weigh mentally,’ ‘count up on the one side and on the other.’

ἄξια … πρός. In Plato, Gorg. p. 471 E, we have οὐδενὸς ἄξιός ἐστι πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν: so that with a slight ellipse οὐκ ἄξια … πρὸς τὴν δόξαν will = ‘not worth (considering) in comparison with the glory.’ Or we may regard this as a mixture of two constructions, (1) οὐκ ἄξια τῆς δόξης, i. e. ‘not an equivalent for the glory’; comp. Proverbs 8:11 πᾶν δὲ τίμιον οὐκ ἄξιον αὐτῆς (sc. τῆς σοφίας) ἐστίν, and (2) οὐδενὸς λόγου ἄξια πρὸς τὴν δόξαν: comp. Jeremiah 23:28 τί τὸ ἄχυρον πρὸς τὸν σῖτον

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For 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, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
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.
What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.
Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ICC New Testament commentary on selected books

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