An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 21 August 2010; Revised 14 June 2020
Scripture Text: The Scripture text of Romans is taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Unless otherwise indicated other Scripture quotations are also taken from the NASB. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at BibleHub.com. Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
Pneumatology: Torah of the Spirit, 7:7–8:39 (cont.)
Freedom from Sin, 8:1-17
Blessings of Freedmen, 8:18-30
Hymn of Freedmen, 8:31-39
Freedom from Sin, 8:1-17
1― Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Therefore there is: this is a translation redundancy for clarity which renders Grk. ara, "then," or "so." The particle makes an inference based on preceding matter (Danker 52). Now: Grk. nun, an adverb that indicates present time; no condemnation: Grk. katakrima, refers to a judgment against someone (Rienecker). There is no longer any condemnation from the Torah (Stern). This is a present reality, not something to be anticipated at the final judgment. in: Grk. en, prep. Christ: Grk. Christos, the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. For a discussion of the Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah. Jesus: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his identity, and the history of translation of the name see my web article Who is Yeshua?
This exact phrase, en christō iēsou, occurs in 44 verses of the Besekh, all in Paul's writings. Paul's frequent usage of the phrase, very Jewish in the nature of expression, probably owes to the divine revelation on the highway to Damascus (cf. Gal 1:12). The phrase functions primarily as a reference to the disciple's identification with the Messiah, but other times the idiom may refer to Messiah as the source of a particular spiritual benefit (e.g., Rom 3:24) or as a simple reference to the person of Yeshua (e.g., Rom 15:17). As a phrase of identification "in Messiah Yeshua" functions as shorthand for being immersed into Yeshua's death and resurrection (6:3-11) (Shulam). There is no condemnation for those who have bound themselves to the Jewish Messiah. One might wonder how some can consider themselves as believers in Yeshua without accepting the inviolable covenant relationship between God and Israel. Being "in Messiah" implies acceptance of his relationship to the Jewish people.
2― For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Paul proceeds to present the doctrine of the "Two Ways," or "Two Spirits," or "Two Masters" (Shulam). Law: equals Torah. See note on 2:12. The use of "law" in this verse is not to the Torah as a group of commandments, but to a principle or a reign. of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus: Paul clarifies that this instruction originated with Messiah Yeshua who promised the provision of the Holy Spirit for his disciples (John 3:34; 7:39; 14:17, 26; 15:26; 16:13; 20:22). The "Torah of the Spirit" expresses the purpose to live a life that is pleasing to God and as a result enjoy that kind of life that He wants to give us. "Life" is not simply living forever, but the abundant life Yeshua promised in John 10:10. The Torah of the Spirit is Spirit-enabled obedience of God as our sovereign Lord as promised in the New Covenant.
"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." (Jer 31:33)
"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Ezek 36:26-27)
Has set free: Grk. eleutheroō, aor., to liberate, to set free; from eluetheros, enjoying freedom from constraint, esp. freedom from slavery. You: Grk. se, second person singular pronoun. Bible versions are divided over the pronoun to denote the recipient(s) of freedom due to the lack of agreement of Greek MSS. (Other versions with "You"--CEV, CSB, ESV, and NLT.) The majority of MSS have Grk. me, "me," which is followed in the ASV, KJV, NIV, NKJV, RSV, and TEV. However, the earliest MSS have se, which is reflected in the Nestle-Aland Greek Text (26th ed.), the basis for most modern versions. Metzger points out that it was difficult for translators to decide between me and se. Good arguments can be made for both pronouns. Several MSS have the second person plural pronoun, "us," probably meant to harmonize with verse 4.
has set free: Grk. eleutheroō, aor., to liberate, to set free; from eluetheros, enjoying freedom from constraint, esp. freedom from slavery. you: Grk. su, second person singular pronoun. Bible versions are divided over the pronoun to denote the recipient(s) of freedom due to the lack of agreement of Greek MSS. (Other versions with "You"--CEV, HCSB, ESV, and NLT.) The majority of MSS have Grk. me, "me," which is followed in the ASV, KJV, NIV, NKJV, RSV, and TEV. However, the earliest MSS have se, which is reflected in the Nestle-Aland Greek Text (26th ed.), the basis for most modern versions. Metzger points out that it was difficult for translators to decide between me and se. Good arguments can be made for both pronouns. Several MSS have the second person plural pronoun, "us," probably meant to harmonize with verse 4.
law of sin and of death: See the note on 7:23. This phrase could be simply a principle derived from the Torah, the natural law of consequences as stated in 6:23. Young notes that the Torah gives life through the Messiah, but also exposes human need and moral failure, both of which depend on human response to the divine initiative (23, 92). However, Sin and Death could also be intended as personifications in contrast to the person of the Spirit. In Revelation the reader meets two demonic spirit-princes, Death and Hades (Rev 1:18; 6:8; 20:13-14), that have power over death and those that arrive in the Pit (cf. Ex 12:23; Jdg 9:23; Hos 13:14; 1Cor 10:10; 15:55; 2Th 2:3; Rev 6:8; 9:11; 17:8; 20:13f).
In 1Corinthians 10:10 Paul uses the personal taunt of Hosea 13:14, "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" (NKJV). Yeshua conquered these two demonic princes, Death and Hades, not merely in an abstract theological sense, but in a very personal sense (Col 2:15; 1Pet 3:22). Yeshua took the "keys" formerly held by Death and Hades, which means that He alone controls the access in and out of the underworld prison (Rev 1:18; cf. 1Sam 2:6). The Lord gave His apostles the keys to the kingdom of heaven, meaning the authority to preach the good news and disciple believers in the faith, but He reserved the keys of Death and Hades to Himself.
What's important to note is that Paul is not saying that Yeshua gave a good Torah of the Spirit which produces life, in contrast with the bad Torah of Moses that produces only sin and death. This interpretation not only contradicts Paul's arguments in chapters 3 and 7, but is implicitly anti-Semitic as well (Stern). The Torah of the Spirit is the Torah given to Moses properly apprehended by the power of the Holy Spirit in believers. The "torah" of Sin and Death (7:21–23) is not a God-given Torah at all but an anti-Torah, which may manifest itself as abandoning God's standards altogether as Yeshua prophesied (Matt 24:12; 2Cor 6:14; 1Jn 3:4) or perverting God's standards into a legalistic system of man-made religion (Matt 7:21-23; 13:41; 23:28).
3― For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh,
Law could not do: Paul is talking about the Torah given to Moses and reduced to writing. Even though spiritual (7:14), the Torah by itself cannot produce life, nor does it produce sinfulness. It simply sets forth God's expectations, as well as remedies (atonement) and punishments (death) for violations. The Torah is not God. weak: Grk. astheneō, impf., to be weak or powerless (BAG); not an adjective, but a verb, meaning that it continued weak from its inception as already shown (Robertson). flesh: Grk. sarx, often of the tissue that covers the skeleton, but also has a variety of figurative uses. The noun is used here to emphasize human or mortal nature, with its limitations apart from divine influence. A few versions translate sarx with "sinful nature" (GNB, Phillips, NLT), and the NCV has "sinful selves," whereas the CJB has "old nature." A number of versions as the NIV and NRSV have "sinful flesh."
As the NASB, the ESV, CSB, DRV, KJV, NKJV, NRSV and RSV translate sarx simply as "flesh." The CJB's "old nature," employed to emphasize the condition before redemption is much closer to Paul's meaning than "sinful nature." Yeshua remarked on human weakness when he found his disciples sleeping in the Garden of Gethsemane: "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Matt 26:41). The Bible, as a collection of words, has no power in itself to make human beings do anything. God did: sending His own Son: God sent his Son in order to deal with sin, because sin is such a serious disturbance in creation that nothing less could overcome it (Stern).
Likeness: Grk. homoiōma, that which has been made after the likeness of something, a figure, image, likeness, i.e., resemblance, such as amounts almost to equality or identity (OGB); of sinful: Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. The second meaning applies here. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh (DNTT 3:577). In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16).
Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional (Heb. shegagah, SH-7684), sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). Nevertheless, atonement was still required. In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).
flesh: Grk. sarx. Paul is certainly not implying that Yeshua was sinful or that the physical body is sinful. He purposely uses an analogy that relies on the fact that Yeshua was a true human being. He experienced the normal weaknesses and limitations of human beings--he had to eat and sleep. He had to rely on his own two legs (and an occasional boat) to journey about the land. He needed financial support to live. He especially needed to see to his own safety to avoid being killed before his appointed day on Golgotha. However, Paul's use of homoiōma brings out "both that Jesus in his earthly career was similar to sinful men and yet not absolutely like them" (BAG 570). Yeshua remained a Divine Being.
and as an offering for: Grk. peri, prep. with an orientational aspect relating to being near or having to do with something; in behalf of, about, concerning. sin: Grk. hamartia, ESV, KJV and RSV renders the phrase as "and for sin," which is an accurate translation of the Greek, but it fails to convey the Hebraic meaning as given in other versions as the CSB, NASB, NCV, NIV, and NLT. The corresponding Hebrew word chatah may refer either to sin as an act (Ex 32:31) or to a sin offering (Lev 6:10) (BDB 307). Yeshua was the unblemished Lamb of God, the perfect Passover lamb, and he bore our sins as a sin offering. He did not become sinful (John 1:29; 9:16; Rom 8:3; 1Cor 5:7; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; 9:26; 1Pet 1:19; 2:24; 1Jn 3:5; Rev 5:12). Some Christians have erroneously concluded on the basis of this verse and 2Corinthians 5:21 that Yeshua became sinful on the cross. The cause of this mistaken belief is the failure of some Gentile Bibles to accurately convey the Hebraic meaning behind the Greek word in context.
He condemned: Grk. katakrinō, aor., to declare worthy of punishment, pronounce a verdict or condemn. The verb is formed from the preposition kata, "down," and krinō, to subject to scrutiny and evaluation of behavior, to judge, primarily in a legal context in the sense of passing judgment on or condemning. The addition of the preposition emphasizes the judicial decree coming from a higher authority, in this case from God, the Father, the judge of all (Ps 7:11; 2Tim 4:8; Heb 12:23).
sin: Grk. hamartia. in the flesh: Grk. sarx. Yeshua's sinless life and devotion to doing the will of the Father was a marked contrast to those about him, including his disciples. The nature of his life served to convict those about him. This clause may also refer to instances in which Yeshua confronted sinful behavior and called for people to stop sinning. However, it is mostly likely that Paul's intention is to emphasize that both Yeshua's incarnation and his act of being a sin offering served as the means for the Father to condemn the awfulness of sin and destroy its power. Yeshua came into the world to "destroy the works of the devil" (1Jn 3:8). God had no intention of tolerating sin in any form and yet he was willing to offer a substitute to satisfy his justice and deliver us from eternal condemnation.
4― so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
requirement of the law: Paul now makes the function of the Torah explicit (Shulam). The Torah makes man knowledgeable of their sin. It's important to note that Paul is still addressing those who know the Torah (7:1). Yeshua continually called his people to change their ways and live by God's standards. might be fulfilled in us: Yeshua fulfilled the Torah, not simply prophetically, but in his character and teaching, explaining the intent of God's Law and assuring its continued importance (Matt 5:17). Following his example, God expects that the righteous requirements contained in the Torah will be lived out by his people. Paul then develops the doctrine of the Two Ways or Two Masters with a progression very similar to Psalm 1:1--first the walk (4), then the mind-set (5-7), then the dwelling (8-11) and finally the living (12-14).
walk according to the flesh: the idiomatic saying means simply behaving as if God does not exist and giving personal desires first place. It's living in the here and now. It's being more concerned about one's physical well-being than spiritual well-being. It is allowing personal desires to drive decision-making without regard to God's instruction even to the point of behaving in ways contrary to his instruction.
walk according to the Spirit: this idiom means behaving in ways pleasing to the Father, as empowered by the Holy Spirit, so that his desires are actualized in my life. Walking according to the Spirit does not nullify the importance of the Torah (Ezek 36:26-27) nor implies making decisions based on impressions, "fleeces," or other forms of divination. (See my article The Will of God.)
5― For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
according to the flesh: since Paul is speaking of a possible world-view or set of values, then he may be speaking of those who do not know God, esp. Gentiles. set their minds: Grk. phroneō, pres., to think, to set one's mind or heart upon something. It denotes the whole action of the affections and will as well as of the reason (Rienecker). The present tense verb indicates an ongoing or dominant activity.
on the things of the flesh: Paul employs the second word picture characterizing human nature apart from God. This statement simply means that the unregenerate man is focused on living by what he wants to do. Since the basic meaning of "flesh" is human nature, then the things of the flesh could be the basic things human beings desire -- food, clothing, shelter (Matt 6:32). Their focus is on what will give them significance and security in this world. And, because living by one's own desires often means ignoring God's desires, sinning is bound to result.
Those who are according to the Spirit: lit. "but the ones according to spirit" (Marshall). Since pneuma, "spirit" is without the definite article, some might interpret pneuma to mean the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit. This would then imply a contrast between "soulish" people who are characterized by the dominance of their souls or "minds," and those dominated by their spirits on the assumption that it is through our spirits that we commune with God who is Spirit (John 4:24). This concept is reflected in common Evangelical thinking of the "carnal Christian" as a stage preceding the "Lordship" stage of discipleship. While perhaps all too common in Christianity a "carnal disciple" is a biblical contradiction as Paul illustrates here. The twelve disciples called Yeshua "Lord" from the first day of their association. The twelve might have occasionally irritated Yeshua, but there was never any question about who was boss. Nevertheless, it most likely that Paul continues to refer to the Holy Spirit and the contrast of the Two Ways. Directing the mind according to the Spirit implies meditating on and applying the Spirit-inspired Scriptures.
the things of the Spirit: The Holy Spirit has important work to do: he convicts of sin (Heb 3:7), he enables understanding of Scripture (John 14:26; 16:13), he intercedes in our prayers (Rom 8:26f), he helps disciples to testify for Yeshua (Matt 10:20), he inspires prophesying (John 16:13; Acts 2:18), He gives direction for evangelism (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12), and he regenerates and sanctifies believers to produce godly character that conforms to the Torah of God (John 6:63; Acts 1:8; Rom 7:6; 8:13f; 1Cor 6:11; Gal 5:22; 2Th 2:13). Those who walking according to the Spirit submit themselves in humility to God so the Spirit can accomplish his important work.
6― For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
This verse actually contains no verbs, but they are added for clarity. The Greek is lit. "for the mind of the flesh death, but the mind of the Spirit life and peace" (Marshall). Paul continues the contrast of the Two Ways with the word picture of the mind-set. the mind set: Grk. phronēma, the state or condition of having one's thought fixed on something. on the flesh is death: Paul probably uses "death" with both figurative and literal meanings. Figuratively to live without God is death because only meaningful and fulfilling life may be found in him. Taken literally if one were to persist in living now and dying without God, then one is doomed to spend eternity in the same manner. Whether the fleshly mind is focused simply on living by one's own values, working, raising a family, seeking prosperity, and being a good citizen in society or focused on sinning in ways destructive to body and relationships is immaterial as far as the eternal outcome.
but the mind set on the Spirit is life: Implicit in the contrast of the Two Ways is that the disciple must exercise his will to present his members for righteousness through the Torah, which brings him life. Setting the mind of God and his values and standards leads to joy and peace and eventually heaven. As it says in the Torah,
"So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5).
7― because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so,
Paul repeats the proposition of verse six with one change in its terms. the mind set on the flesh is hostile: Grk. echthra, hatred, hostility or enmity (Rienecker). The fleshly person may not feel any emotion of hatred toward God, but the self-focus of ignoring God has the same effect as hatred. does not subject itself: Grk. hupotassō, pres. pass., military term for subjection to orders. Present tense here means continued insubordination (Robertson). to the law of God: Paul holds forth God's instruction in righteous living as something one should be in subjection to.
not even able: Grk. dunamai, to be capable for doing or achieving. to do so: Human nature unaided does not have the inherent ability to be righteous and holy. Human nature can keep certain of God's commandments (cf. Deut 30:11), such as refraining from murder or stealing or laws enacted by humans to regulate the peace of communities. Human nature may also do good, but usually it is on the basis of "egoistic altruism"--doing good to receive good in return (cf. Luke 6:32-34). What human nature cannot produce is a holy character, because by definition holiness as a characteristic of one's nature ("being" instead of just "doing") is a product of the Holy Spirit. Paul is speaking of two different paradigms.
8― and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
in the flesh: Paul introduces his third word picture of human nature apart from God. After walking and then focusing one's mind in the direction of human values and desires one then lives there. The root meaning of the Grk. preposition en is "within" (DM 105). While en is a versatile preposition its basic meaning relates to a place within which something is found (BAG). cannot please God: Living day in and day out totally focused on self and one's own values is not the way to please God. Indeed, that kind of focus cannot please God, because it leaves him without a place of importance.
9― However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.
The Spirit of God and the Spirit of the Messiah are equated with each other in at least one Jewish source:
"'And the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.' This phrase from Genesis 1:2 alludes to the spirit of the Messiah, because Isaiah 11:2 says, 'And the spirit of Adonai will rest upon him' [that is, upon the 'shoot of Jesse', which is a name for the Messiah]." (Genesis Rabbah 2:4; cited in Stern 670)
if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you: Shulam notes that the word picture of dwelling parallels the dwelling of God's Spirit, his Sh'khinah glory, in the Tabernacle (Ex 33:14) and the Temple (cf. 1Kgs 8:10-11; Isa 6:1f). Paul resorts more directly to the analogy of being a temple of the Holy Spirit in 1Corinthians 3:16. if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him: lit. "but if anyone the spirit of Messiah has not, this one is not of him" (Marshall). This is a very strong statement that contrasts flesh and Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Messiah of Israel. Paul's claim does not have anything to do with the degree of spiritual growth. Yeshua is in heaven and as a physical person his limitation does not enable him to be in everyone. Possessing the Holy Spirit, or more accurately, being possessed by the Spirit and living by Torah, enables Yeshua to connect personally with every one of his disciples. As John says, "The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us" (1Jn 3:24).
10― If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.
The use of "is" amounts to clarifying interpretation since the verse actually contains no verbs. If Christ is in you: "Messiah in you" can be indicative of submission to the lordship of the Messiah and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of the Messiah. Shulam sees in the statement an allusion to Yeshua's dwelling or presence with us in the Spirit, just as God poured out his Spirit on his prophets. the body is dead because of sin: Paul expresses the essence of the Second Law of Thermonuclear Dynamics, the Law of Increasing Entropy, even though it wasn't "discovered" until the 19th century. The body begins to die as soon as we are born and is as good as dead, and all because of Adam's sin and our sin.
the spirit is alive: reference to the human spirit, which is not only living but eternal. The living spirit illustrates the First Law of Thermonuclear Dynamics, called the Law of Energy Conservation, which was not identified and defined until the 17th century. This law states that energy is constant and thus it cannot be created nor destroyed. The living spirit like the rest of creation is conserved by the power of God who "upholds all things by the word of His power" (Heb 1:3). because of righteousness: beginning the verse with "If Messiah is in you" and ending the verse with "because of righteousness" make these clauses parallel terms in the proposition. In other words, the spirit is alive because of the righteousness of Yeshua (see notes on 3:22; 5:18). This verse can also apply to Yeshua in that his body died by virtue of being a substitutionary sin sacrifice, yet he lived again because of his righteousness.
11― But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead: Before Paul met Yeshua the Pharisaic doctrine of the resurrection was an important part of his core beliefs. Yet, meeting the risen Messiah transformed his theology. Paul notes that the Holy Spirit was directly involved in Yeshua's resurrection. Other passages in the NT simply say that "God" raised Yeshua from the dead (Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:37; 1Cor 6:4). However, in Romans 6:4 Paul clarifies the matter by saying that Yeshua was raised "from the dead through the glory of the Father," an allusion to the shekinah or Holy Spirit.
dwells in you: the personal pronoun is plural. This same Holy Spirit who did such a mighty work on that momentous day in biblical history dwells with God's people. While Christians commonly think of the indwelling of the Spirit as an individual experience, Scripture especially emphasizes God's presence as a corporate reality. will also give life to your mortal bodies: Paul repeats this promise first given in 2Corinthians 4:14, "He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you." The "he" in that verse likely alludes to the Spirit. So, the same Spirit who raised Yeshua, dwells in God's people now will orchestrate the resurrection on the last day.
12― So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh--
brethren, we: double emphasis, disciples of Yeshua are under obligation: Grk. opheiletēs, one who owes a moral debt, a debtor (Rienecker). Shulam points out that the verb opheilō corresponds to "service" of a bond-servant (1:1) and being bound to a master (6:2ff). not…to live according to the flesh: Paul introduces his fourth word picture of human nature apart from God. After the walking, developing the mind-set, moving into a place of residence, one makes a life there. Paul personifies "flesh," functioning as a master in contrast to the Spirit in the next verse. So, we, as faithful disciples have an obligation both to others (cf. Matt 6:12; Rom 13:8; 15:27; Phm 1:19) and to God (1Jn 4:19).
13― for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
We must keep on denying ourselves, consecrating every part of our lives to God. "Just say no" must be a personal policy to maintain relationship with God. Destructive and sinful behavior must be eliminated. putting to death: Grk. thanatoō, pres., used of intentional killing or executions (e.g., Matt 10:21; 26:59; 27:1). The present active verb indicates an ongoing activity. the deeds: pl. of Grk. praxis, may mean (1) engagement in performance, function or (2) by metonymy, of thing performed for the function producing it, to wit, action, deed, practice. A metonymy is a figure of speech used in rhetoric in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept.
of the body: Paul deliberately refers to the body because from a Hebraic point of view some part of the body is involved in every activity and certainly every sin. Thus, "putting to death" would have the sense of cessation of specific behaviors that would result from living according to the flesh. Stern calls the deeds of the body the bad habits the old nature produced. Putting such habits to death does not mean in any sense the practice of asceticism or masochism, which may be inferred from the KJV term "mortify." Harsh treatment of the physical body has no spiritual value (Rom 7:5; Col 2:16–23).
14― For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
are being led: Grk. agō, pres. pass., to cause movement by taking the lead and thus may mean to lead, bring, carry or take. The present passive verb indicates ongoing activity and receiving the activity. Spirit of God: not one's own spirit. The Holy Spirit initiates and executes the leading. What does it mean to be led by the Spirit? It could take a variety of forms, but especially in identifying and helping to end the "deeds of the body" in verse 13. Being led by the Spirit can mean personal guidance to go somewhere as recorded a number of times in Scripture (Matt 4:1; cf. Acts 8:29; 11:12; 19:21) as well as direction in how to apply Torah to life (Gal 5:18; cf. Col 2:16).
the sons of God: The idiomatic expression Heb. benê ha-Elohim occurs five times in the Tanakh, first identifying human men (Gen 6:2, 4), and then in reference to angels (Job 1:6, 2:1; 38:7). In the Torah the nation of Israel is designated the "son of ADONAI" (Ex 4:22-23), but more specifically the Israelites as participants in the covenant with God were marked as "sons of ADONAI" (Deut 14:1). The title would have had special meaning to the Jewish members of the congregation.
In the Besekh the expression Grk. huioi theou occurs five times (Matt 5:9; Luke 20:36; Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 3:26), and denotes those who manifest the character of God and seek to please Him. Parallel idioms help clarify the meaning: "sons of the Most High" (Luke 6:35; John 10:34); "sons of the Father" (Matt 5:45); "sons of the kingdom" (Matt 13:38), and "sons of light" (John 12:36). In Paul's usage "sons of God" is a status of those associated with and devoted to the true Son of God. To be called a "son of God" is a high honor. And, because it is a status women, too, can be "sons of God."
15― For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"
For you have not received: Grk. lambanō, aor., to take or receive. This verb marks the transit of a person from a position to another who is the agent with the latter being the receptor. The aorist tense of the verb likely points back to Pentecost when the pioneer members of this congregation received the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. Spirit of slavery: Grk. douleia, in bondage to an owner. The negative image of slavery could appeal to Jew and Gentile members in different ways. Proselytes knew that by joining themselves to Israel did not make them slaves, but fellow citizens of the nation. Jews knew the reality of historic slavery from wars with the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. A slave under Roman law had no rights, although under the Torah slaves held by Jews did possess certain rights. In chapter six Paul urged his hearers to be "slaves of righteousness" (6:18), turning a negative image into a positive one. The phrase "spirit of slavery" points back to his earlier language of being a "slave to sin" (6:6, 17). Here the contrast makes another point. God is not just concerned about righteousness, but one's relationship with him.
leading to fear again: Paul equates slavery with fear and he implies that to serve God out of fear would make one no better than a slave. There were Jews who followed their religion because of concern for God's retribution. Among the seven types of Pharisees described in the Mishnah, two were positive--"the God-fearing Pharisee," after the manner of Job and "the God-loving Pharisee," after the manner of Abraham (Avot 5:9; Soṭah 22b). The message of Paul, the Pharisee, is that God is not looking for servants who fear him, but sons who love him.
Spirit of adoption: Grk. huiothesia, condition of one who is legally adopted as a son, with a nuance of special status, here with the focus on the gift of special relationship with God. The word indicates a new family relation with all the rights, privileges and responsibilities (Rienecker). The terminology of adoption would have vivid meaning for Roman citizens. Roman law provided a process by which a man could create between himself and a person not his biological child the kind of relation that properly belongs only to father and child. In Roman law "adoption," which actually referred to the ceremony, took two forms. One called adoptio meant that the adopted person passed from the power of his biological parent to the power of the person adopting him. When a person was not in the power of his parent, the ceremony of adoption was called adrogatio. A woman could not adopt a person, for even her own children were not in her power. (See Adoption in William Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, 1875).
Such a process is unknown to both biblical and Talmudic law. However, the Torah does have the requirement of Levirate Marriage by which a man is enjoined to marry his brother's widow in order to give him a male heir (Deut 25:5-6). Also, the Tanakh records a number of individuals who exercised a surrogate ("legal") parental role: Sarah for Ishmael (Gen 16:2), Rachel for the children of Bilhah (Gen 30:1-8), Leah for the children of Zilpah (Gen 30:9-13), Pharaoh's daughter for Moses (Ex 2:5-10; 1Chr 4:18), Elijah for Elisha (1Kgs 19:19-21; 2Kgs 2:12), and Mordecai for Esther (Esth 2:7). Jews strongly felt that the man and woman who bring up a child, and more especially those who teach the child virtue and the fear of God, should be honored as parents (Sanh. 19b). Moreover, in rabbinic thought the welcoming of a proselyte into Israel was akin to adoption. (See the JVL article Adoption.)
Yeshua promised his disciples that he would not leave them as orphans, but would send the Spirit who would act as a guardian (John 14:16-18). The Holy Spirit superintends our relationship to God as sons.
we cry out: the "we" are Messianic Jews and grafted-in Gentiles, likely proselytes and God-fearers. Abba: Grk. abba. Paul uses the familiar Hebrew word "abba" and then translates its meaning for the Gentiles, which may have been superfluous. A number of words in the Besekh are given in Hebrew and then translated (into Greek, of course) for the Gentile reader (Mark 5:41; 7:34; 15:34; John 5:2; 19:13, 17, 19; 20:16; 1Cor 16:22; Rev 9:11; 16:16). "Abba" occurs only three times in the Besekh (here; Mark 14:36 and Gal 4:6). In the Israeli vernacular then (and now), abba meant "dad" or "daddy" (Stern 99).
Many commentators identify abba as an Aramaic word and cite it to prove that Yeshua and his disciples spoke Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Douglas Hamp rebuts this common belief in his well-researched work, Discovering the Language of Jesus and offers this note on "abba."
"The [Hebrew] root אב, ab [pronounced "av"], is found in such names as Abraham and Abimelech. Ab is a very old Hebrew word meaning, simply, father. … In Jesus’ day we find that the word changed a bit from how it was used in the Old Testament, in that the letter aleph was added to make it the vocative form. That is to say, it becomes a form of address rather than just a description of a person. For example, rather than saying father to refer to him, one would use abba when speaking to him just as today we can talk about our dads or say “Dad” instead of his actual name. While it [abba] is found in Aramaic sources, it is also found in many passages of the Mishnah. In fact, it is found thirty-eight times in the Mishnah. Evidently, the word had become commonplace and even if abba had originally come from Aramaic, by the time of Jesus, it was completely assimilated into Hebrew, and Jesus’ use of it is in complete harmony with the Hebrew of His day." (Hamp 67f)
As Hamp points out, the English words "pork" and "beef" came originally from French, but just because I use those words just not mean that my daily language is French (55).
Father: Grk patēr, which is used in the LXX to render ab ("av"). In Greek culture patēr was used of biological relation, of the patriarch of a family, as a title of honor for an old man or a philosopher, and of a deity to emphasize his authority and his power to beget. In the Tanakh the word "father" (Heb. ab = LXX Grk. patēr) occurs about 1180 times, but God as Father occurs only a small number of times and only in relation to Israel (Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; 2Sam 7:14; 1Chr 17:13; 22:10; 28:6; Ps 89:26; 103:13; Prov 3:12; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 31:9; Mal 1:6; 2:10) (DNTT 1:616f). Without God's adoption man is an orphan (Gal 4:5; Eph 2:12), but when man acknowledges God as his Father, then he inherits God's understanding and truth (Shulam).
16― The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,
Spirit Himself: Adding a personal pronoun, Paul emphasizes the special ministry of the Holy Spirit in contrast to the work of the Father and the Son. Testifies: Grk. summartureō, pres., to bear witness with someone, to confirm, to testify in support of someone. Used in legal documents where the signature of each attesting witness is accompanied by the words "I bear witness with and I seal with" (Rienecker). Just as a single witness was sufficient to confirm to a court that a woman's husband was dead (Rom 7:1-7), so the Holy Spirit is sufficient to testify to this more important truth (Shulam). The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth (John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13), so we can rely on his testimony. we are children of God: Scripture does not teach the universal fatherhood of God. The God of Israel is a father to those who choose to live in right relationship with him.
17― and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
if children, heirs also, heirs of God: Shulam sees here an allusion to the promise made to Abraham that he would be the father of many nations as Paul discussed in 4:17-18. The inheritance for all nations is the riches of righteousness. Those who by faith become sons of Abraham will also have a share in the joys of resurrection and eternal life. and fellow heirs with Christ: not only do the sons of Abraham receive life and its fullness from God, the Father, but they are also entitled to a share in the Messianic kingdom. Messiah Yeshua will inherit the nations and the ends of the earth (Ps 2:8). if indeed we suffer with Him: Grk. sumpaschō, pres., may mean (1) to suffer with, (2) to suffer the same thing as or (3) to have sympathy (BAG). The present tense indicates a continuing activity. We need to consider the full scope of the meaning of sumpaschō, since not every disciple has been persecuted for their faith or died for their faith. The word "Him" is italicized in the NASB to reflect that it was added to complete the thought.
Paul alludes to the Messiah's being rejected and suffering injustice, which Yeshua prophesied must happen (Luke 9:22). The conveyance of eternal inheritance will not be made strictly on the basis of an initial identification with the Messiah, but maintaining our sympathies with him. Paul emphasized the importance of the ongoing relationship with God to Timothy: "It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us" (2Tim 2:11-12). This statement is in line with Yeshua's words, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does [present tense participle] the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter" (Matt 7:21). While Roman law may have made inheritance for an adopted son iron-clad, inheriting God's kingdom requires a certain character. Whether we are called to put our lives on the line for Yeshua we still must endure and resist the pressures of the world to conform to its values (Col 2:8), as well as the assaults of the evil one to destroy our faith (Eph 6:16).
we may also be glorified with Him: Grk. sundoxazomai, to share in someone's glory (BAG). The word "Him" is italicized in the NASB to reflect that it was added to complete the thought. Paul alludes to Yeshua's resurrection, ascension to the glory of heaven, anticipated glorious Second Coming and coronation on the glorious throne (cf. Matt 25:31; 2 Thess 1:10-12). Paul comforted the Thessalonian congregation with the revelation that when Yeshua returns, he "will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep" (1Th 4:14) and then those who are living at the time will be caught up for a grand reunion in the sky (1Th 4:17). Our glorification with Yeshua, then, awaits the Second Coming.
Blessings of Freedmen, 8:18-39
18― For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Having described the contrasts between the Two Ways or Two Masters Paul now with pastoral concern begins to describe the blessings of those who have been freed from the tyranny of Sin and have chosen to walk by the power of the Spirit. the sufferings of this present time: Paul had plenty of firsthand experience with suffering for his Messiah (cf. 2Cor 4:8-12; 11:23-28). are not worthy: Grk. axios, having worth or value, in the sense of being weighed on a scale. the glory: Grk. doxa. See note on Romans 2:7.
to be revealed to us: Paul is using the word picture of a scale as typically used in markets. On one side of the scale he places the present sufferings. On the other side of the scale he places the glory to come. The resulting measurement concludes that sufferings count as nothing in comparison. The glorious revelation yet to come could be Yeshua at his Second Coming (1Pet 4:13), the presence of God seated on the throne surrounded by worshipping angels (Rev 15:8) or the beauty of the heavenly city (Rev 21:23). Shulam suggests that Paul's concept of "glorification" is based on the idea that man's inheritance of the world to come rests upon his endurance of persecution for his faithfulness to God. Yeshua had told his disciples, "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:10).
19― For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
For the anxious longing: Grk. apokaradokia, watching eagerly with outstretched head, eager waiting. The sense is strengthened by the preposition in compound which denotes diversion from all other things and concentration on a single object (Rienecker). Shulam notes that apokaradokia is rarely found in Greek writings prior to 200 BC and is absent from the LXX. However, the noun corresponds to Heb. ta'arog, "to pant" for God (only in Ps 42:1 and Joel 1:20).
of the creation: Grk. ktisis, creation, either of the act of creation or that which is created (BAG). Scripture is squarely against any notion of the material universe evolving into existence on its own. The noun is used primarily of God's creation of the universe, whether of individual things or beings, or the sum total of everything he created. The noun is also used once of human institutions and authority, which have their source in God as well (1Pet 2:13; cf. Gen 9:5-6; Isa 42:5; 43:15; Acts 17:24-26). Here Paul does not mean human institutions since they care nothing for God and have no concept of handing over their authority to a Messiah, especially a Jewish Messiah. Rather, Paul uses ktisis with the sense of individual creatures and higher beings as in Revelation 5:13 which speaks of every creature (Grk. ktisma) blessing the Creator. Both ktisis and ktisma derive from the verb ktizō, "to create," in the Besekh always a divine activity.
waits eagerly: Grk. apodechomai may mean (1) to welcome someone or receive someone favorably; or (2) to recognize, acknowledge, or praise someone or something (BAG). The "someone" is the Son of Man and Son of God whose glorious return in the clouds will herald the great resurrection for the revealing of the sons of God: God as a proud Father shows the glory of his sons to the whole creation. Paul alludes to his earlier teaching to the Thessalonians, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus" (1Th 4:14).
20― For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope
creation was subjected to futility: Grk. mataiotēs, vanity, aimlessness, the inability to reach a goal or achieve results (Rienecker). Paul reflects on the past. All creation suffers the curse because of Adam's sin through death and decay, known in physics as the Law of Increasing Entropy. because of Him who subjected it: God imposed the curse. The ravages of entropy down through history cannot be explained by random chance or evolution. in hope: these words actually begin the thought of the next verse. Hope as a Hebrew concept is not wishful thinking, but an assurance that God's promises will be fulfilled based on the knowledge of his nature.
21― that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
creation itself also will be set free: Paul next looks to the distant future with anticipation from what is now a spiritual reality to what will be a physical reality. slavery: Grk. douleia. See verse 15 above. to corruption: Grk. phthora, a process of disintegration or deterioration, decay ruin. Paul again accurately describes the Law of Increasing Entropy set in motion by the curse God imposed because of Adam's sin. Creation cannot change itself back into Paradise. In modern times it seems as if nature has run amok with natural disasters throughout the world: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tornados, typhoons and tsunamis (cf. Luke 21:11, 25).
the freedom of the glory of the children of God: The Law of Increasing Entropy has an expiration date, the revelation of the Messiah in all his glory. There shall be no more decay, no more disease and no more destruction. Our inheritance involves an ecologically ruined world that will one day be restored (Acts 3:21, 1Cor 15:23–28, Heb 2:8–11, Rev 21:1) (Stern). Thus, creation will be set free when the children of God are set free by the resurrection. Revelation 20–22 depicts the return of Paradise.
22― For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
the whole creation: See verse 19. groans: Grk. sustenazō, pres., to lament or groan together. and suffers the pains of childbirth: Grk. sunōdinō, pres., to be in travail with or more generally to suffer agony together (BAG). BAG goes on to point out a similarity between Paul's statement and a quote by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus (5th cent. BC) who said, "when after the winter's cold the groaning earth gives birth in travail to what has been formed within her" (801). The preposition in these two words (sun) indicates in all the parts of which creation is made up (Rienecker). The present tense of the verbs indicate an ongoing condition.
The words "of childbirth" are not in the Greek text, so the translation is probably influenced by the overall context and the fact that the verbs can describe the labor pains associated with childbirth. Paul's terminology is reminiscent of Jewish apocalyptic literature that presented the concept of the "birthpangs of the Messiah" or "messianic tribulation" to describe the physical and spiritual suffering of the creation before the advent of the Messiah (Shulam).
23― And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
And not only this, but also we ourselves: As in 5:11 Paul introduces a kal v'chomer argument, where if one thing is true, how much more is another thing true (also called a fortiori argument). first fruits: aparchē, make a beginning in sacrifice, by offering something as first fruits to God. The first portion of the harvest, regarded both as a first installment and as a pledge of the final delivery of the whole (Rienecker). See the note on "convert" in 16:23. of the Spirit: Paul does not mean the "fruit of the Spirit" as he discusses in Galatians. Rather he describes the Holy Spirit as firstfruits. Yeshua was the first fruits of the resurrection (1Cor 15:20, 23). The charter members of the Roman congregation likely experienced the Pentecost in Jerusalem and were among the first to experience the fulfillment of God's promise to pour out his Spirit on all flesh.
waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons: the kal v'chomer argument is that if the whole of creation is waiting for redemption, how much more that the "sons of men" are also awaiting adoption as sons and physical redemption (Shulam). the redemption of our body: Paul informs us that redemption is not just a spiritual transaction, but a very physical reality that occurs in the resurrection. In Hebraic terms "body" may stand for the whole person in contrast to Greek dualism that conceived of body and soul as separate entities. In 2 Corinthians 5:1-10 Paul links man's "groaning" with the hope of complete (and physical) redemption, and uses the metaphor of the house or building to describe the new resurrection reality.
24― For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?
For in hope: Grk. elpis, the state of looking forward to something that is desirable. Having spoken of the first fruits in the previous verse Paul resorts to the metaphor of planting. A farmer plants in hope, but it's not just simple wishful thinking such as one might wish for a Christmas present. The farmer knows the laws of nature. He knows what it takes to produce a good crop, what is his part and what is God's part. To the Hebraic mind hope is based on God's promises and reflects a solid expectation (cf. 4:14). we have been saved: Grk. sōzō, aor. pass., 1p-pl., to deliver, or rescue from a hazardous condition; save, rescue. The verb is used in reference to rescue from bodily peril (Luke 8:50) or bodily death (Luke 23:39), as well as rescue from spiritual peril, frequently of an apocalyptic type (Luke 13:23; 19:10).
In the LXX sōzō translates no less than 15 different Hebrew verbs, but the most important is yasha, (SH-34-67), to deliver, liberate and save (e.g., 1Sam 23:5). In apostolic usage sōzō is equated with divine pardon and a present experience (Matt 1:21; 1Cor 1:18; 2Cor 2:15; Eph 2:5). Just as often sōzō is a future experience of being delivered from divine judgment (Rom 5:9-10; 10:9, 13; 11:26; 1Cor 5:5). The past tense of the verb here may allude to Paul's own transformation experience with the risen Messiah, but certainly points to the common experience of his readers who had repented and embraced the Messianic hope.
hope that is seen: Grk. blepō, pres. pass. part., to possess the capacity to see, whether literally or figuratively. is not hope: Paul states the obvious and not simply because his readers were slow learners. for who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. hopes: Grk. elpizō, pres., to look for; hope, expect. The verb is not used to express mere wishful thinking, but assumes a strong prospect of fulfillment. for what: Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. he already sees: Grk. blepō, pres. The adverb "already" is an interpretive addition. Fulfillment represents the completion of hope.
25― But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
But if we hope for what we do not see: Paul continues the thought from the previous verse. with perseverance: Grk. hupomonē, capacity for resolute continuance in a course of action; i.e., endurance, perseverance or steadfastness. we wait eagerly: Grk. apekdechomai, pres. mid., remain in a state of waiting for an expected even to take place; await, wait upon; here with a nuance of eagerness or longing. This interesting word reflects the eager anticipation of God's blessing. Maintaining the agricultural analogy the farmer is aware that all our food is provided by the gracious act of God. So, for the farmer hope means awaiting the harvest. While he continues to wait he does his part to bring about a mature crop, i.e., weeding and taking protective measures against predators, as well as praying for divine assistance. Waiting does not mean doing nothing. If all this is true in farming, how much more is it true in the expectation of resurrection, redemption and eternal blessedness.
26― In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
the Spirit also helps our weakness: Paul alludes to Yeshua's dictum regarding the weakness of the flesh, the weakness or powerlessness of our human wisdom and ability, and even our tendency to give up when we should persist (cf. Luke 18:1). for we do not know how to pray as we should: this is a powerful admission coming from the great apostle. Paul is not saying that he did not know how to pray. He learned very early the practice of thrice-daily prayer. He makes frequent mention of his own prayers for congregations (2Cor 13:7; Eph 1:16; Php 1:4; Col 1:3; 1Th 1:2) and himself exhorts them to pray earnestly (Rom 15:30; Eph 6:18; 1Th 5:17; 1Tim 2:1). However, on the human level far too often we don't know what others really need and sometimes we're not able to express our own desires adequately. Then, praying in concert with God's sovereign plans is difficult when we do not know those plans for the future. the Spirit Himself intercedes: Grk. huperentugchanō, pres., to plead or intercede on behalf of someone. It is a picturesque word of rescue by one who "happens on" one who is in trouble and pleads "in his behalf" (Rienecker). Should we feel overwhelmed by being trapped in this present unredeemed universe, we have an assurance provided by the Spirit that he prays properly our heart's deepest yearnings, even when consciously we don't know how to do it (Stern).
with groanings: Grk. stenagmos, to sigh or groan (BAG). See also Acts 7:34 where Stephen recounts the oppression of the Israelites in Egypt. A parallel thought occurs in Exodus story of the Israelite's oppression and their beseeching God for help.
"Now it came about in the course of those many days that the king of Egypt died. And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God. So God heard their groaning; and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Ex 2:23-24)
too deep for words: Grk. alalētos, unexpressed or wordless; from lalētos, "endowed with speech.". Marshall translates as "unutterable." The description of "unspoken groans" refers to the mysterious communication between the Spirit and the Father, thus, no human language exists that can translate it. However, the Spirit understands and translates the groanings of our spirits--the desires, needs, wounds and hurts, which we often cannot or dare not or will not express to others. Harrison points out that it is a mistake to associate the Spirit's inexpressible groanings with the gift of languages. The promise of the Spirit's intercessory ministry is intended to include all disciples, whereas the gift of languages (however defined) is not possessed by all. In addition, the gift of languages is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture in connection with intercession. (See my Notes on 1 Corinthians 14.)
27― and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
He who searches: Grk. eraunaō, pres. part., to search or probe. The verb is a present participle so it indicates both an ongoing activity and a characteristic of the Father. Zechariah received a vision of seven lamps which he learned represented the "eyes of the LORD which range to and fro throughout the earth" (Zech 4:9). King David prayed, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts" (Ps 139:23) and he instructed his son Solomon,
"As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever." (1Chr 28:9)
Yeshua informed the overseer of the congregations in Thyatira "I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds" (Rev 2:23).
He intercedes: Grk. entugchanō, pres., to approach or appeal; indicates approach to an authority with a request or plea in mind, as indicated by the context. The third person singular verb implies the action of the Holy Spirit. for the saints according to the will of God: the Spirit knows the mind of the Father and only presents petitions and desires that are in accordance with either the moral will of God (Rom 12:2; Eph 6:6; Col 4:12; 1Th 4:3) or the sovereign will of God (Rom 1:10; 15:32; Col 1:1). Related to this fact is John's testimony, "whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight" (1Jn 3:22).
And we know that: Paul makes another axiomatic statement of common knowledge of Jews and followers of Yeshua. God causes all things to work together: Grk. panta sunergei ho theos, lit. "God works together all things." Bible versions are divided over the subject and verb due to controversy over the correct Greek text. Versions that agree with the NASB are the CEB, CJB, ERV, EXB, GNB, ICB, NCV, NIV, NJB, NLT, NTE, RSV and WE. However, the venerable KJV has the familiar "all things work together," which is followed by the CSB, ESV, NKJV and NRSV. The simple facts are that seven ancient Greek New Testament MSS contain "God" as the subject of the verb, but the majority of MSS do not contain the word "God" as the subject.
The NKJV which footnotes variances between the Nestle-Aland Greek text, the basis for modern versions, and the Textus Receptus, the basis for the KJV, makes no mention that there are MSS with the words "God works together." Conversely, Marshall's NASB-NIV Interlinear, in both versions has the misleading footnote "some manuscripts read all things work together." My personal NASB has the marginal note, "One early MS reads all things work together." Just one? This explanation is very misleading.
While the 23rd edition of the Nestle Greek text contains "God" in brackets (panta sunergei [ho theos]) the 26th edition of the Nestle text removed the word for God. The 25th edition of the Nestle text (which is the text of GNT) gives the phrase that omits "God" a "C" rating, meaning that there is considerable degree of doubt about the superior reading. However, the committee for the 26th edition changed that rating to a "B" indicating that the omission of "God" is almost certain. Metzger defends the "B" rating by saying that with only seven MSS containing "God works," the Committee deemed the reading too narrowly supported to be admitted into the published text. Since the verb may be taken to imply a personal subject, Metzger suggests that an Alexandrian editor added "God."
The reader may well ask does all this controversy over one word really matter. I think it does. First, what no one has pointed out is that the very earliest MS, Papyrus 46, dated about 200 has "God works" (GNT 551). A thousand MSS with "God" omitted cannot overturn this fact. Case closed as far as I'm concerned. Second, The inclusion of "God" reflects the Hebraic nature of the biblical text and the outlook of biblical characters. Christians may have difficulty with the notion of a sovereign God who controls the universe and causes things to happen, even bad things, but ancient Hebrews had no such difficulty. They allowed God to be God, a will-ing being who is free to exercise His power as He chooses. When bad things happened Bible characters charged God with being the cause.
Third, to allow the verb to stand without its personal subject clearly stated conveys an unintentional pantheism. "Things' cannot work anything, let alone together. Such thinking is akin to giving divine powers to the material universe. The truth is that nature operates by immutable laws imposed by the Creator, and never contrary to those laws. Much of the suffering in the world is caused by people who exercise their wills for bad choices. Would we excuse a person who committed adultery and justified it by saying, "it just happened?" Not likely.
Fourth, God is the source of "the good" (Jas 1:17), and so good can only result in bad circumstances if God does something. "Good" never just happens. Those who love God are not just more lucky than those who don't love God.
to those who love God: Paul insists that this activity of work is directed for the benefit of a particular group of people, those who keep the first and greatest commandment. This commandment as Yeshua implied includes a host of lesser commandments contained in the Torah (Matt 22:35-40). The fact that those who don't love God might benefit from all this "working together" (cf. Matt 5:45) is not material to Paul's point. God's primary concern is for his faithful people. to those who are called according to His purpose: lit. "being the called ones according to purpose" (Marshall). "Called" is an adjective, not a verb and refers to Israel, the chosen people, into which the believing Gentiles have been grafted (11:17) and made fellow citizens (Eph 2:12, 19). The purpose from the beginning was that Israel would be a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; 49:6) and bring forth a Messiah (John 4:21-26). Simply judging by the genealogies in Matthew and Luke God performed an incredible feat of working so many details together so that at the appointed time Yeshua would be born to fulfill his divine mission.
29― For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
For those whom: Christian commentators tend to interpret verses 29-31 in the context of the historical development of Christian theology over the last two thousand years and fail to comprehend the Paul's Jewish context and his historical point of view. Paul is talking about Israel, not Christianity which hadn't even been invented yet. He foreknew: Grk. proginōskō, aor., may mean (1) know before about a matter of moment; or (2) have in mind as part of a long-standing plan. The second meaning applies here. Foreknowledge is not knowledge from education, but personal experiential knowledge, as in Acts 26:5, "they have known about me for a long time." God knew in advance, as he told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you" (Jer 1:5) and it is this kind of knowledge by which God knew the patriarchs and the nation of Israel.
Foreknowledge is a manifestation of God's omniscience as Scripture says, "His understanding is infinite" (Ps 147:5) and "God is greater than our heart and knows all things" (1Jn 3:20). Indeed, he knows the secrets of every heart (Ps 44:21). Christian theologians argue over the theoretical problem of how God's knowledge interacts with human freedom. Does man's choice condition God's choice or vice versa? Many Christians opt for the preeminence of man's "free will" thereby reducing the sovereignty of God. However, we cannot begin to comprehend or appreciate the knowledge of the Creator of the universe, who is a will-ing being and whose choices are truly free, in contrast to man's choices that are influenced by so many factors and forces. God is not a prisoner of what Man might do.
He predestined: Grk. proorizō, aor., to mark out with a boundary beforehand, to predestine (Rienecker), to determine beforehand, as in Acts 4:28; 1 Corinthians 2:7. Proorizō is formed from pro, "before," and orizō, to establish a boundary or framework through deliberate decision for an event, activity or thing. God declares the end from the beginning (Isa 46:10) and brings about his will, as Paul will go on to argue in the next chapter. Paul's use of the concepts of foreknowledge and predestination has nothing to do with Calvinist theology that posits the salvation or damnation of individuals by a unilateral decree. These verbs only have meaning in relation to Israel, the nation whom God elected to be a covenant people and a light to the Gentiles. They are the ones "whom he predestined," so it is primarily corporate, not strictly individual, although individuals benefit. Predestination also refers to the "framework for salvation," that salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22) and requires a blood sacrifice. God predestined a people and a plan.
to become conformed: Grk. summorphous , adj., to be similar in form or style. Summorphous is formed from sun, 'with" and morphē, "appearance," and so refers to an inward and not merely superficial conformity. to the image of His Son: eikonos from eikōn is used of Yeshua as the very image of the Father (cf. 2Cor 4:4; Col 1:15). Paul expresses a contrast between the goal for Yeshua's disciples and Yeshua's nature. Disciples are not clones of Yeshua. Our renewed nature is only similar to that of Yeshua. We may well ask, "what does it mean to be like Yeshua?"
The WWJD ("what would Jesus do?") movement in the early 1990s attempted to provide a framework for being like Yeshua. The movement was especially influenced by Charles Sheldon 1896 classic book In His Steps, in which characters attempt to answer the question in various arenas of life. Actually, Peter provides a succinct answer to the question in 1 Peter 2:21-25. Peter identifies the first step in being like Yeshua as getting rid of sin. Robertson suggests that the use of both morphē and eikōn express the gradual change in us until we have the family likeness of sons of God. This conformity will only reach its perfection in the resurrection (1Th 3:13; 5:23).
that he would be: a common idiom for purpose. first born among many brethren: Grk. prōtotokon [firstborn] en [in, among] pollois [many] adelphois [brothers]. Yeshua is "first born" of all creation (Col 1:15), but here the thought is parallel to "first born from the dead" (Col 1:18), the Eldest Brother in this family of God's sons, though "Son" in a sense not true of us (Robertson). So, the purpose of his choosing and electing was not to determine eternal destiny for select individuals, but to create a family that would manifest the character of his Son.
30― and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
these whom He predestined: Grk. prooraō, aor., to see what is ahead, either in a spatial sense or a temporal sense or a combination of the two. Although translated as "predestined" in almost all Bible versions, the verb does not have the same nuance of meaning as proorizō in the previous verse. Prooraō could be translated as "foresaw" or viewed as a combination of "foreknew" and "predestined" of verse 29. Thus, the translation of "having chosen" in the NLT seems imminently reasonable. He also called: Grk. kaleō, aor., may mean (1) to say, call or summon directly or indirectly; (2) to solicit participation or (3) to identify by name. Frequently the verb has a spiritual meaning of participating in a divinely directed event or relationship.
He also justified: Grk. dikaioō, aor., may mean (1) show or do justice for someone; (2) justify or vindicate; (3) in connection with God's judgment be acquitted and treated as righteous and thereby become righteous; (4) to make free or pure (BAG). See the note on 2:13. In the LXX dikaioō renders Heb. tsadaq (SH-6663), a verb with two categories of meaning: (1) as a condition or character quality, to have a just cause, be in the right, be just or righteous (Gen 38:26; Job 33:12; Ps 51:6; Isa 43:26), and (2) in the administration of justice, to declare right, to vindicate, or prove right, to acquit or be acquitted, or to be cleared of wrongdoing (e.g., Ex 23:7; Deut 5:21; 2Sam 15:4; Ps 51:4; Isa 5:23) (DNTT 3:355).
The context of this important word is a righteous standard against which people are measured. The great majority of Bible versions translate the verb dikaioō here with "justified," which can be misleading to modern readers. The CJB has "caused to be considered righteous." Other translations include "declared righteous," "freed," "put right" and "set free." AMPC adds "acquitted, made righteous, putting them into right standing with Himself" and AMP adds "declared free of the guilt of sin."
The biblical terms Heb. tsadaq and Grk. dikaioō function as a word picture of a trial with a heavenly Judge and a righteous standard against which people are measured and evaluated. One case before the court is an innocent person wrongly accused. The outcome of that trial vindicates the person's character and he is acquitted. Throughout the Tanakh the verb tsadaq occurs only in this vindication scenario. In other words the person is actually righteous and the verb describes the defense of that person's character. The same usage of dikaioō may also be found in the Besekh (Matt 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29; 10:29; Rom 3:4; 4:2; 1Cor 4:4; 1Tim 3:16).
However, in most instances in the Besekh dikaioō is used to depict a different trial in which the accused is guilty. The defendant before the bar of God is definitely a sinner, a law-breaker. No witnesses and no evidence can be presented to demonstrate innocence. Acquittal is not deserving, but yet in response to humble confession and repentance God, the Supreme Judge, offers mercy and forgiveness, and then grants pardon, release from condemnation and cancellation of the deserved punishment, thereby creating a relationship of favor with God (Rom 4:5; 5:1; 8:1-2; 1Cor 6:11; Gal 2:16-17; 3:8, 11, 24; 5:4; Titus 3:7). The parable of the Pharisee and tax collector is a case in point (Luke 18:13-14).
He also glorified: Grk. doxazō, aor., may mean either (1) to praise or honor or (2) in reference to the next life to clothe in splendor (BAG). Both meanings can have application here. The glorification is stated as already accomplished, but the aorist tense can also function in a prophetic sense and point to the future when God's people will be glorified in the resurrection.
All four verbs reflect a historical progression and a sense of completion. God knew his people in advance and He determined the people and the plan of salvation that would be worked through that people. He chose his people and then He called them out of Egypt. God continued to call down through history for any who would be saved to find safety under the Olive Tree. All the faithful ones He "glorified," i.e., honored and esteemed. The Lord chose Israel above every nation on the face of the earth and still does (Deut 7:6; 10:15; 14:2; Isa 41:8; Zech 2:8). Then, the faithful ones of the past have gone to the glory above, but the glorification of new clothing awaits the Second Coming (8:17; cf. 2Th 1:10-12; Rev 3:4-5, 18; 7:9, 13-14).
Hymn of Freedmen, 8:31-39
31― What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
What then shall we say: Paul launches into exuberant praise of the God of Israel. The following monologue has all the elements of a great hymn. to these things: From 8:12 on Paul has made a triumphant presentation of the reasons for the certainty of final sanctification of the sons of God. He has reached the climax with glorification (v. 30). But Paul lets the objector have his say as he usually does so that in verses 31-39 he considers the objections (Robertson). If God is for us, who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. The pronoun introduces the first of five rhetorical questions. is against us: Paul challenges all doubters and states the obvious to rebut negative thinking. Having reminded the disciples of all that God has done for them, he then minimizes the adversaries of our faith. We can be conquerors because Almighty God, the Creator of the universe, the Lord of Heavenly Armies, loves us. We can trust in his sovereign care. There is no one on a par with the God of Israel.
32― He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
He who did not spare: Grk. pheidomai, aor. mid., to have hesitation about doing something that affects adversely, to spare. Paul uses terminology that alludes to the offering of Isaac (Gen 22:16 LXX), whom Abraham did not withhold from God. His own Son: the gift of "his own son" is the promise and the pledge of the "all things for good" of verse 28. Christ is all and carries all with him (Robertson). delivered Him: Grk. paradidōmi, aor., to convey from one position to another; in general, hand over in the sense of subjecting a person to custodial procedure, which could involve various stages and numerous parties in the judicial process. While early apostolic rhetoric emphasized Sanhedrin culpability and responsibility for the unlawful arrest, trial and execution of Yeshua, Paul points to the sovereign plan of God.
for us all: Paul stresses the universal benefit that resulted from the Father delivering up his Son. how will He not also with Him freely give us all things: Paul redirects the logical outcome of the opening clause. After all, the proposition could have said that since God didn't spare his own son, neither will he spare us. Verses 35 and 36 deal with this reality. However, Paul focuses on the promise implicit in the sacrificial offering of the Messiah, that his sufferings guarantee future blessings in the Messianic kingdom.
33― Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies;
Who will bring a charge: Grk. egkaleō, fut., originally meant the payment of a debt, then of a legal accusation. against God's elect: Grk. eklektos, to be favored with select status, chosen. In the Tanakh "God's elect" (chosen ones) only has reference to Israel (Deut 7:6), but in the apostolic writings elektos would include all disciples of Yeshua (cf. Rom 16:13; Col 3:12; 2Tim 2:10; Titus 1:1). The answer to the second rhetorical question is self-evident, but Paul chooses not to give any attention to the enemy of our souls by direct mention. "The accuser of our brethren" (Rev 12:10), otherwise known in English as Satan, is busy day and night attacking the reputation and character of the saints.
God is the one who justifies: Paul asserts that the only person whose opinion matters is God. Satan has no interest in helping anyone, but only seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Satan may have been a great archangel at one time, but he became a murderer and a liar, indeed the father of lies (John 8:44). On the other hand, God is the God of truth who seeks to redeem and restore sinners to a right relationship with him. Only God can accomplish this.
34― who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
who is the one who condemns: an allusion to Satan as identified in the previous verse. The third rhetorical question reflects a bold accuser who can face God with false charges or with true ones for that matter. Christ Jesus: the title and name of our Lord is for Paul like a computer zip file. All the history, hopes and promises of a Jewish Messiah, Redeemer, Deliverer and King are packed into those two words. See note on 1:1. He who died…was raised…at the right hand: Grk. dexios, "right" as a direction. While dexios occurs several times in the Besekh in reference to a part of the body, it also has a simple location usage within a structure, as well as figurative use of power or privileged position. of God: Paul summarizes the glorious victory of our Lord in his death, burial, resurrection and ascension to heaven (cf. 1Cor 15:3-4). The assertion of Yeshua's heavenly location is also affirmed in other passages (Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33; 7:55-56; Col 3:1; Heb 10:12; 1Pet 3:22).
In Hebrews 10:12 Paul is more specific and says Yeshua "sat down" at the right hand of God, quoting Psalm 110:1. Stephen as he was being martyred, remarked that Yeshua was standing, ostensibly in honor of his sacrifice (Acts 7:55-56.) Sitting implies a throne and the apostle John was informed of it: "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Rev 3:21). That God sits on a throne was known from the time of David (Ps 11:4; 29:10; 47:8). However, it was the prophet Micaiah who gave the first eyewitness report of seeing God on His throne, "Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left" (1Kgs 22:19).
A century later Isaiah reported, "In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple" (Isa 6:1). Human minds may not be able to understand how the omnipresent God can "sit" on a throne and some regard the report as so much figurative language, especially since Scripture says that Heaven is God's throne (Isa 66:1). Nevertheless, the united testimony of Scripture is that God does indeed sit on a throne and on his right sits Yeshua, also on a throne.
who also intercedes: Grk. entugchanō, pres. See verse 27 above. for us: Paul completes the thought by affirming that Yeshua has an active occupation. The intercession of the Son functions as gadol kohen (high priest, Heb 2:17; 7:25), very different than the Holy Spirit. Whereas the Holy Spirit is present with us Yeshua serves in heaven as noted above. We have an Advocate at God's Court if we sin (1Jn 2:1). Our Advocate paid the debt for our sins with his blood and provides perpetual atonement (Heb 7:27). He is ever ready to help us because he sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb 4:15). The "high priestly prayer" recorded in John 17 illustrates that while Yeshua may sympathize with our weaknesses he nevertheless pleads for the development of godly virtues in us, especially faithfulness, sanctification and unity.
35― Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
Who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 24 above. The great majority of versions translate the pronoun as "who" indicating a person, but given the list of bad things that follow tis could be translated as "what" (DLNT, EHV, GW, NCV, NOG, NABRE), emphasizing the nature of the events. Some of the following experiences could be the result of bad circumstances, but most are caused by bad people as instigated by Satan. will separate: Grk. chōrizō, fut., to separate or divide, whether in (1) creating a distance between; (2) motion by departing away; or (3) a relational sense by separating from a spouse. The first usage is intended here.
us from the love: Grk. agapē, a relatively high level of interest in the well-being of another, affection, esteem, love. The noun agapē is one of the four Greek words for "love." In the LXX agapē renders Heb. ahavah (SH-160, BDB 12), which is used of both human and divine love. The Jewish translators of the LXX apparently coined the noun agapē, since there is no Greek literature earlier than the LXX that uses the word (DNTT 2:539). God's nature and actions are the epitome of agapē (1Jn 4:8) and the preeminent virtue (1Cor 13:1-13). The essential factor in every passage employing agapē is the willingness to sacrifice for an object, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō, the family loyalty of storgē and the passion of eros.
of Christ: Grk. ho Christos, lit. "of the Messiah." See verse 1 above. The specific phrase "agapē tou Christou" occurs only in Paul's writings (also 2Cor 5:14; Eph 3:19). The phrase "love of Messiah" is in the genitive case. The genitive qualifies the meaning of a preceding noun and is typically translated with "of.” The force of the genitive may be subjective or objective. Treating the phrase as a subjective genitive means that Christos performs the action. Treating the phrase as an objective genitive means that Christos receives the action. The context of verses 28-34 in which the actions of God in behalf of His favored people are lauded would support "love of Messiah" being Yeshua's love for his disciples. While Scripture often mentions God's love for His people and the world (John 3:16; 16:27), only a few verses mention Messiah's love for his disciples (cf. John 13:1; 15:10).
Paul minimize the reality of suffering of God's people. He also does not subscribe to the ancient idea that suffering is the result of God's punishment for sin, as in the story of Job. Rather, disciples can experience the Messiah's love and the love of the Father even in the midst of the worst times. God's love is not just a sentimental feeling, but an active working for our good. The devil may impugn the goodness of God, but the truth is that He will always care for his people.
tribulation: Grk. thlipsis means affliction, pressure or oppression (BAG), and is a word picture of being crushed under a weight. Thlipsis sometimes refers to suffering that is experienced as a part of life. Most of occurrences refer to persecution or opposition that disciples of Yeshua endure from the world. In His Olivet Discourse Yeshua gave the word "tribulation" a two-fold meaning: "Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name" (Matt 24:9). Imprisonment is also included in the definition of tribulation (Acts 7:9-10; 20:23). Paul concurred that such was his experience (2Cor 4:8; 2Tim 3:11). Tribulation is the natural state of affairs between members of God's kingdom and the world considering the longstanding war between Satan and God, so suffering a great tribulation in the very last days should not be a surprise (Matt 24:21; Rev 7:9-14). distress: Grk. stenochōria, feeling of pressure in constricting circumstance, distress. "Distress" is likely the emotional response to "tribulation."
persecution: Grk. diōgmos, a program of systematic harassment, especially because of differing belief or expression, persecution. Apostolic records indicate that early disciples persecution almost exclusively from Jewish religious leaders. The book of Acts records numerous incidents of open hostility by unbelieving Jews, particularly Judean leaders, against the Jewish apostles of the Messiah in Damascus, Jerusalem, Paphos, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Thessalonica, Berea, Corinth, Macedonia, and Caesarea. In 2 Corinthians 11:24 Paul says he received 39 lashes five times from unbelieving Jews. In contrast the book of Acts records only four incidents of Gentile hostility against the apostles (Acts 12:1-4; 14:5, 19; 16:16-24; 19:23ff). In the Second Century this situation reversed itself and beginning with Emperor Trajan Christians became the target of State oppression.
Millions of believers have suffered and died for their faith since the first century. Satan has exhausted every conceivable tactic and method for destroying the God's people, and in some places and some times, the gates of hell did seem to prevail. Satan's campaign equally targeted the Jews and millions have endured coerced conversions, blood libels, ritual murders, crusades, inquisitions, expulsions, pogroms, ghettoes, and the Holocaust. (See Marvin Wilson, Our Father Abraham, Chapter Seven, for the sordid history of anti-Judaism.)
In modern times the saints have had to endure intense persecution in countries controlled by Nazism, Communism and the dominant false religion of the Middle East. Disciples of Yeshua have also suffered persecution in regions dominated by occult oppression. Even Western countries with their constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion are increasingly infringing on the rights of followers of Yeshua to practice their faith.
famine: Grk. limos, (1) condition of misery caused by lack of food, with the focus on craving for food, hunger (2Cor 11:27), or (2) as serious lack of food causing hunger in a broad area, famine (Acts 711; Rev 6:8). Ancient civilizations had no safety net against crop failures, as evidenced by the seven-year famine of Egypt which brought the ancient land to near collapse. However, famine or shortage of food products can result from a variety of causes, including wars, inefficient distribution of food, hoarding, collusion in controlling the market, hyperinflation, high taxes, bureaucratic regulation and price controls. Those with wealth may weather such hard times, but the poor invariably suffer.
nakedness: Grk. gumnotēs, a condition of being without any clothing or being inadequately closed. Nakedness might result from either destitution or taken in slavery. In ancient times conquering armies would sometimes subject defeated people to being stripped of their clothing, both for humiliation and to minimize the possibility of escape (cf. Deut 28:48; Isa 20:1-4; 47:3; Ezek 16:37-39). peril: Grk. kindunos, danger or hazard. Paul spoke of a variety of dangers he faced--"dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren" (2Cor 11:26). The primary focus of "peril" is threat to physical safety, as well as security of property.
sword: Grk. machaira, refers to a dagger or the Roman short sword used by ancient Roman infantry for close hand to hand combat. Paul's intention could be literal in the sense of the threat of being murdered, as Herod unlawfully executed James the brother of John (Acts 12:1-2). The term could also be metaphorical as Yeshua used the term, "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matt 10:34). Yeshua goes on to apply the metaphor to family relations that would suffer due to following him. Paul says that he experienced the loss of all things (Php 3:8), which probably meant that he had been cut off from his family inheritance.
Yeshua warned His disciples that as they served God's purposes they would suffer persecutions, tribulations, privations, family desertions, hatred from adversaries and finally death by cruel hands. Likewise, Paul warned that all who are godly would suffer persecution (2Tim 3:12). Persecution may seem ironic for children of the King, but true discipleship means to follow in the steps of the suffering Messiah (Php 3:10).
36― Just as it is written, "FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."
Just as it is written: the standard formula in the apostolic writings for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, followed by a quote from the Tanakh. See the note on 1:17 for this phrase. This is the sixth time the formula is used in the letter. Following up the last two kinds of suffering in the previous verse, "peril" and "sword," Paul quotes from Psalm 44:22. In accordance with rabbinic practice we should assume that Paul is applying the entire psalm to those who have trusted in Yeshua (Stern). Psalm 44 speaks of Israel as oppressed by enemies and scattered among the nations, yet faithful to God's covenant.
What is especially important to Paul's line of argument in this chapter and the previous chapter is that Psalm 44 confesses that their deliverance from and victory over their enemies did not come about as a result of their efforts, but through the sovereign power of God. Paul's hearers would also recognize that the disciples of Yeshua are not the only ones to be considered as sheep. Yeshua, himself, in fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7 was led as a sheep to be slaughtered. Paul's message is that just as Jews have been singled out for destruction since ancient times, so following Yeshua will not offer any sanctuary from like experience.
37― But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
But in all these things: in the tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword, that is our lot. we overwhelmingly conquer: Grk. hupernikaō, pres., to win overwhelmingly. The word is formed from the preposition huper, over or above, and nikaō, to be a victor, to prevail, to conquer, to overcome or to vanquish, whether in a military battle, athletic contest, or a legal action (BAG). Nikaō occurs frequently in Revelation in a spiritual sense of overcoming evil. through Him: Paul emphasizes that our victory is definitely from above, from heaven. who loved us: Grk. agapaō, aor. part., to love or cherish. A participle is a verbal adjective, so God loved because it is His nature to love.
The God of Israel and Yeshua serve as the models for the best expression of agapaō. 1Corinthians 13 outlines the key characteristics of a life dominated by this virtue. Conversely, several passages use the agapaō word-group in a thoroughly negative sense (Matt 24:12, Luke 6:27; 11:43, John 3:19, 2Tim 4:10). The common factor in every passage employing agapaō is the willingness to sacrifice, which sets it apart from the affection of phileō and the passion of eros. Thus, Paul points back to that time when God so loved the world that he gave his Son (John 3:16).
38― For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
For I am convinced: Paul expresses an unshakeable confidence. neither death: no matter the cause, whether natural or caused by man. Death is the last enemy, but it power has been nullified by the resurrection of Yeshua and the hope of our own resurrection. nor life: it seems odd to list "life" as a cause of anxiety, but he probably means the uncertainty of life in terms of health and prosperity. For Paul to live was the Messiah and he is the antidote to our fears. nor angels: pl. of Grk. angelos refers to one empowered to act as an agent or courier to convey a message or announcement, and may be translated as messenger, envoy or attendant. In the Greek language angelos originally referred to an ambassador in human affairs who speaks on behalf of another, including as a messenger of the gods (DNTT 1:101f).
In the Besekh angelos occurs 176 times, fourteen of which definitely refer to men (Matt 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:24, 27; 9:52; 2Cor 12:7; Gal 1:8; Jas 2:25; Rev 2:1, 8, 12, 18; 3:1, 7, 14). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel. A malak was responsible to carry a message, perform some other specific commission and to represent more or less officially the one sending him (TWOT 1:464). Malak occurs 213 times in the Tanakh, sometimes as a heavenly messenger (Gen 16:7) and sometimes as a human messenger used in the general sense (Gen 32:3), or more specifically of a prophet (Isa 42:19) or a priest (Mal 2:7). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or human depends on the context.
nor principalities: pl. of Grk. archē is a multi-purpose word with the basic meaning of priority with these applications: (1) The point of origination, i.e., beginning; (2) one who enjoys preeminence in earthly or supra-terrestrial realm, often plural, i.e., ruler, authority; (3) an assigned position or sphere of activity, a position, domain or jurisdiction. Archē is derived from archō, and in the LXX archō renders over 30 Hebrew words, including Heb. nasi, used to refer to tribal chiefs or leaders of the community, (e.g., Ex 16:22; 34:31; Josh 9:15; 22:32) (DNTT 1:165; BDB 672). In the apostolic writings archē is used as a general term for rule and authority without further specification (1Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21; Col 1:16; 2:10).
The term is used for a political ruler (Luke 20:20; Titus 3:1); for a synagogue ruler (Luke 12:11); and for angelic or demonic powers (Eph 3:10; 6:12; Col 2:15). Some versions as the NASB employ the older formal term "principalities" (HNV, KJV, MW, NASB, NKJV, RSV, TLV). A principality (or princedom) refers to a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a monarch with the title of prince or princess. Considering the ancient use of archē the word "principality" is hardly accurate. Some versions render archē as "heavenly rulers," referring to other supernatural beings, no doubt due to the proximity of "angels," (CJB, NET, NIV, NLT, TEV). Still other versions translate with the simple and more accurate word "rulers" (CEB, HCSB, ESV, MRINT, NRSV).
Not considered by commentators is that Paul could be referring to synagogue officials with the references to "angels and rulers." Moseley suggests that angelos was a term used of a synagogue minister (9). There is no such usage in the apostolic writings, but the synagogue organization included a wide variety of leadership and ministry positions (see Hegg 116f), and those who taught the Scriptures could easily have been thought of as messengers for God. In Revelation angelos is clearly a term for the overseer of each of the seven congregations receiving letters and it is well established that early congregational organization was characteristic of synagogue organization (Hegg 116; Moseley 8-11).
Moreover, four terms derived from archē illustrate its strong connection with the synagogue: (1) archisunagōgos, ruler of the synagogue (Mark 5:22, 35, 36, 38; Luke 8:49; Acts 13:15; 18:8, 17); (2) archōn, used of national rulers (Matt 20:25; Acts 16:19), synagogue officials (Matt 9:18; Luke 8:41; Acts 14:5), religious party leaders (Luke 14:1), and members of the Sanhedrin (Luke 18:18; 23:13, 35; 24:20; John 3:1; 7:26; Acts 3:17; 4:5, 8; 13:27; 23:5; 1Cor 2:8); (3) archēgos, ruler of a synagogue or member of the Sanhedrin (John 7:48; 12:42; 1Cor 2:8); and (4) archeireus, used of the high priest (Mark 2:26) or chief priests (Matt 2:4; Mark 8:31; Luke 23:13; John 7:45; Acts 4:23).
Yeshua warned his disciples that they would have to contend with adversarial Jewish leaders and synagogue officials: "When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers [archē] and the authorities [exousia, i.e., Sanhedrin or chief priests], do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say (Luke 12:11; cf. Matt 10:17; 21:23; 23:34; Acts 9:14; 26:10, 12). These faithful Jewish disciples certainly had plenty of bad experience with unbelieving Jewish leaders, including synagogue officials, beginning in Jerusalem and then in various cities of Asia Minor. Paul encourages the Roman congregation that Jewish disciples might be separated from their synagogue kinsmen, but no official could separate them from the love of God.
nor things present: Grk. enistēmi, pl. perf. part., be present or be here. In this context the verb is a simple reference to contemporary life. "Things present," implying a threat to one's peace of mind, could refer to many aspects of life in the first century (cf. 2Tim 3:1-5), such as, poverty, persecution, slavery, totalitarian rule, military terrorism, idolatry, a debased culture, political corruption, nepotism, the breakup of families, the growing divide among Jews over the Messiah and the growing anti-Jewish sentiment in Rome.
nor things to come: Grk. mellō, pl. pres. part., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, be in the offing, be about to, being going to. Yeshua had prophesied in his Olivet Discourse a number of very unpleasant events. According to the apostolic writings things will get worse before they get better. Such bad news could cause extreme anxiety and doubt about God's love. Why would the loving God of Israel allow his people to suffer? Both the present and the future may well include the tragedies listed in verse 35. We can do nothing about the future except prepare for it the best we can and in the present live faithfully for our Lord.
nor powers: pl. of Grk. dunamis, which refers to the quality or state of being capable and thus may mean "power" or "might" as a quality of something or the demonstration of power by a structure or personage. Some Bible versions, considering the term to be associated with demonic power, translate the word in the list of angels and rulers. It's not likely the word occurs at the end of the sentence because Paul lost his train of thought and wrote it out of place. Since Paul did not create the verse divisions, dunamis probably belongs to the beginning of the next verse and connected with "nor height nor depth" and in that context refers to an adversarial supernatural power.
39― nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
height nor depth: Shulam suggests that this expression may reflect the power of the stars and probably refer to astrological terms. Barclay explains that "height" was when a star was at its zenith and "depth" was when the star was at its lowest distance from its zenith. The ancient world believed strongly in the tyranny of the stars. They believed that a man was born under a certain star, which determined his destiny. Such fallacious thinking caused much anxiety and even Hellenistic Jews fell prey to this superstition. Paul reassures the disciples that the world is wrong and that the stars have no power over our lives, especially to separate us from God's love.
any other created thing: Grk. ktisis. See verse 19 above. This phrase serves to contrast with the "height" and "depth" of the stars, in this case referring to what's on earth. For example, a lion's den holds no threat, because God's presence would even be there. will be able to separate us from the love of God: Paul emphasizes that not only did God love in the past but continues to sacrificially love his people. The only way to separate ourselves from the love of God is to walk away from it. which is in Christ Jesus our Lord: See the notes on 1:1, 4 for these references to the Son of God. God's love is clearly demonstrated in his Son.
BAG: W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
Barclay: William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans, Daily Study Bible, rev. ed. Westminister Press, 1975.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. London: Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
Danker: F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DM: H.E. Dana and J.R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, The Macmillian Co., 1955.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, ed. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966.
Hamp: Douglas Hamp, Discovering the Language of Jesus: Hebrew or Aramaic?. CreateSpace, 2005.
Harrison: Everett F. Harrison, Romans, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd ed. German Bible Society, 1994.
Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Jesus and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.
OGB: Alvin Engler, ed., Online Greek Bible, 2001-2010. (Text of Nestle-Aland 26th ed. and UBS 3rd ed.)
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, "Romans," A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Vol. 2, Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, "Romans," Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. 4, Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Shulam: Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Romans, Lederer Books, 1997.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary, Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
TWOT: R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Moody Press, 1980.
Young: Brad H. Young, Paul the Jewish Theologian, Hendrickson Pub., 1997.
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