Liberated Children and the Indwelling Spirit

A Commentary on Romans Chapter Eight

All humankind came under the burden of sin following the rebellion in Eden. [Romans 5:12] Then for 1,500 years God’s People Israel came under another burden - the Law of Moses. It did not liberate them but turned them into slaves. How can such worshippers gain a freedom and at the same time become children of God? How and when will these “sons of God” be revealed to all the world? Will humankind in general some day experience the freedom of the children of God?

We come to one of the most beloved chapters in the Christian Bible - Romans chapter eight. It surely ought to be one each Nazarene disciple learns AND understands. From the subjects of laws and principles Paul moves to the liberating spirit -- or Pneuma, among his favorite words. Though there are those united in Christ as his disciples there are two kinds of minds: the fleshly [the Physical] and the spiritual (the Pneumatic). One leads to death and the other to life and peace. No fleshly-minded Christian can ever pleased God, Paul writes.

Freedom and the Indwelling Spirit

Romans 8:1-8

1 Therefore, there is no condemnation against those united with Christ Jesus. 2 For the spiritual principle of the life united with Christ Jesus completely liberated you from that principle of the sin and death. 3 Because the Law [of Moses] is impotent because of the flesh’s weakness. The God Himself, by sending His Son concerning sin in the likeness of sinful flesh judged against fleshly sin. 4 In order that the righteous demands of the Law [of Moses] may be [rightly] fulfilled in us -- those not conducting ourselves in harmony with the flesh but rather in harmony with the Pneuma. 5 For those who are in harmony with the flesh are thinking about fleshly things. However, those in harmony with the Pneuma the things of the Pneuma. 6 Because fleshly thinking means death, but Pneumatic thinking [means] life and peace. 7 Because fleshly thinking [means] enmity with The God, for [such thinking] will not subject [itself] to the Law of The God -- nor ever can be. 8 Those who are fleshly can never please God. [21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures - NCMM]

While those Jews under the Law rested under a curse and possible condemnation, the liberated Christian Saint united with Christ rests under no such condemnation. [Or, KJV: there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus; MOF: no doom] These are most comforting words for friends of the Nazarene. [Colossians 1:22] This sense of no condemnation from God results in a cleansed and perfected conscience. [Hebrews 9:9, 14; 10:22]

This does not say there will be no “judgment” for those in Christ Jesus, for Paul, and John all teach a future parousia-judgment, as did the Nazarene. (John 5:29; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28; Matthew 25:1-46) Each Christian Saint will stand before the judgment-throne of Lord Messiah to receive just payment or punishment for conduct while living in the human body.

The question becomes what does it mean to be “in” Christ. The Greek is simply EN, as the English “in.” It can mean united, belonging to, incorporate with, in union with. The phrase occurs scores of times in Paul’s epistles. (Romans 8:1, 2, 10; 12:5; 16:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2, 30; 15:18; 16:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 12:2; 13:5; Galatians 1:22; 2:4, 20; 3:28; 5:10; Ephesians 1:1, 3, 4, 11; 2:6, 7, 10, 13, 15, 21, 22; 3:6; 6:1; Philippians 1:1; 3:9; 4:21; Colossians 1:2, 27, 28; 2:6; 3:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:14; 4:16; 5:18; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 12; 2 Timothy 1:1; 2:10) The word “in” suggests a relationship with Christ where heart and mind are one.

Paul writes that this lack of condemnation is because of “The spiritual principle of the life united with Christ Jesus.” Other versions render this phrase “spiritual principle” as KJV: for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus; PME: new spiritual principle of life; WEY: for the spirit’s law -- life in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 5:16; James 1:25) Here Paul adds another “law” to his list -- a spiritual one related to justification and sanctification resulting in a spiritual life with promises of an immortal existence. [See notes on Romans 2:5, 6]

The Greek word PNEUMATOS (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4151 - PNEUMA) occurs 38 times in Romans and 22 times in chapter 8 -- surely the key word of the chapter. The Greek literally means breath or wind (an invisible force or pressure), often translated by the English “spirit.” PNEUMA is used of mind, disposition or attitude, spirit-being, pressure or inclination.

This spiritual law or principle frees the Saint from that law or principle of sin and death inherited from Adam’s defective DNA. (Hebrews 10:14) The freedom or liberty is from sin’s condemnation and the fear of death. Paul writes about this emancipation in Christ: “[Jesus] might emancipate all the living enslaved to a fear of death.” [Hebrews 2:15 NCMM] The disciple is released from a conscience under the burden of Adamic sin and the hopelessness of death.

This liberation or freedom is from the Law of Moses. Paul writes that the “The Law [of Moses] is impotent because of the flesh’s weakness.” [Or, KJV: for what the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh; MON: for God has done what the Law could not do; NEB: what the law could never do, because our lower nature robbed it of all potency; WEY: thwarted as it was by human frailty.] Paul sums up the “problem” with the Law -- human sinfulness. The Law of Moses is right, just and good and fulfills the role God intended for it. [See Galatians 3:19 and Hebrews 7:18 and compare notes on Romans 3:20.]

Of course, it is clear, Paul is speaking to Hebrews according to the flesh who had formerly been under the Law of Moses. Now for their benefit, indeed for the benefit of all humanity, “the God Himself, by sending His son concerning sin - that is, as “a sacrifice for sin [NEB] - in the likeness of sinful flesh, condemned fleshly sin.” (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28) The New English Bible likely has the right idea. That is, “...sending His Son concerning a sin offering.” (Isaiah 53:10-12; Philippians 2:5-7; Hebrews 2:14, 15; Hebrews 4:15.) When the Risen Lord ascends to heaven as the glorified Son of Man he is seen as “someone like a son of humankind” or hominid. (Daniel 7:13) Thus, our Lord “has signed the death-warrant of sin in our nature.” [KNX]

Note the prophetic attitude of the Jews toward the Messiah at Isaiah 52:13-53:3:

“Behold, my Servant will behave with perceptiveness. He will be exalted on high and his elevation will be given the highest ranking. Just as multitudes have gazed on him in astonishment - for he was disfigured in appearance more than other humans, and also his royal appearance more than any among humankind - just so, he will also astonish multitudes of non-Jews. In his presence kings will stop speaking, for the reports they heard they will actually behold, and what they had never head about they will pay strict attention. Who has believed in what we reported? To whom has Yehowah’s arm been revealed? [Messiah] will sprouted like an offshoot before others, and just like a root in a desert. He did not have any royal presence, nor any pomp. When we [Jews] looked upon him, we saw nothing desirable in his appearance. He was spurned and shunned by humans. He was a person intended for pain and one who experienced illness. We hid our faces from him. He was scorned and we [Jews] did not consider him worthy.” [NCMM]

In contrast to the legalistic Jews and their burden, the Christian Saints were “those not conducting ourselves in harmony with the flesh.” That is, KJV: who walk not after the flesh; GDSP: we live not on the physical (plane); WEY: our lives are ruled not by our lower (natures). [Compare Colossians 3:2, 5-9; Galatians 5:19, 20.]

Rather liberated Christian Saints conduct themselves “in harmony with the Spirit.” That is they “walk after the Spirit” [KJV], or “live now in obedience to the Spirit” [TCN] The American Translation says: “we live ... on the spiritual plane.” And the Weymouth Translation puts it: “our lives [are] ruled ... by our spiritual natures.” It seems likely that this is God’s Pneuma [or, Spirit]. If we accept Paul’s parallel at 1 Corinthians 2:16 with Isaiah 40:13 then God’s Pneuma [or, Spirit] is His Mind. That is, the PNEUMA (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4151) of God is an invisible mental pressure that He exerts as a power manifest either in His Word (the conduit into the heart of the disciple), or, in a variety of pneumatic, spiritual manifestations. (1 Corinthians 12:4-11; Galatians 5:16, 18; see notes on Ro8:14) John 6:63 has the Nazarene teaching, “The teachings I have spoken to you are PNEUMA.” [Compare this with Hebrews 4:12.]

The Fleshly

Paul contrasts the liberated Saint in Christ with that pseudo disciple “who are in harmony with the flesh [and who] are thinking about fleshly things.” Other versions out this: KJV: they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; TCNT: earthly minded; GDSP: people are controlled by the physical think of what is physical; MON: give their attention to the things of the flesh; WEY: their thoughts are shaped by the lower nature. One way to determine this is the subjects that dominate a person’s conversation, or would reflect a Christian’s life-style. The Nazarene taught, “Those born of flesh are fleshly.” (John 3:6; Galatians 5:19, 20)

Paul is clear on how to identify the fleshly-minded when he writes: “And so, brothers, I was unable to speak to you as [spiritual] persons, but rather as fleshly persons, as infants in Christ. I gave you only milk to drink and not solid food, because you were unable to accept up. Neither are you able even now. For you are still fleshly because jealousy and strife are in your midst. Are you not yet fleshly? Are you not walking as humans do?” [1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NCMM] The fleshly Christian who lives in harmony with the flesh would be characterized by spiritual immaturity, jealousy, and contentiousness. The danger of fleshly thinking, Paul writes, “means death.” Or, as one version puts it: “to set the mind on the flesh brings death.” [NOR] (Colossians 3:1-5)

Paul warns that “Fleshly thinking [means] enmity with The God.” That is, “interests of the flesh are hostile to God.” [MOF] (Isaiah 59:2 Colossians 1:21)) What one thinks about, or is minding, is usually revealed in speech and conduct. James 4:4 and 1 John 2:15-17 are like commentaries on Paul’s phrase: “Do you not realize the friends of the world means enmity with The God?Stop showing worldly concern for worldly things. Everyone who shows more concern for the world no longer has any love for the Father inside. That is because the entire world -- fleshly passions, greedy eyes, and that pretentious display that comes with possessions -- none of it has the Father as its source. The world with all of its greedy desires is passing away. However, the person who does the will of God will live forever in that future New Age.” [NCMM] So Paul concludes that “those who are fleshly can never please God.” Never can an “earthly minded” Christian please the Father who is so willing to pour His Spirit on the godly and spiritual. (1 Corinthians 3:3)

The Spiritual

On the other hand the true liberation from the burdens of the Law of Moses comes to “Those in harmony with the Spirit.” Such are “people who are controlled by the spiritual” and so “think of what is spiritual.” [GDS] That is, they “give attention to spiritual things.” Again, the Nazarene taught, “Those born of the Spirit are spiritual.” (John 3:6) As above, the “spiritual” may be identified by: a) the subjects that dominate language; and, b) those actions that dominate life-style. [Compare 1 Corinthians 2:15; Galatians 5:22, 23; Colossians 3:1-5; Philippians 4:8]

Spiritual or pneumatic [under the pressure of the Pneuma] thinking results not in a sense of condemnation but in “life and peace.” [Or, KJV: to be spiritually minded is life and peace] The literal Greek is “minding of the pneuma.” One sees the meaning in “minding the store” or “minding your own business.” The Greek for “minding” is PHRONEMA (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5427) and refers to that mental inclination or purpose of the mind. Spiritual mindedness, or, spirituality, produces life and tranquillity. [Compare Galatians 6:8; 1 Corinthians 2:12-15] Paul continues to examine the life resulting from the indwelling Spirit.

Life by Indwelling Spirit

Romans 8:9-11

If the spirit of God dwells within then the Christian lives, not in harmony with the flesh, but with the spirit. The sinful body is deadened to sin if Christ resides within, leading to everlasting life because of His righteousness. If God’s spirit dwells within then this dying body will be changed into a truly living one just as Christ was raised up from the dead. Paul writes:

9 However, you are not in flesh but in Pneuma, if God’s Pneuma even resides within you; but, if anyone has not Christ’s pneuma this one is not His. 10 Indeed, if Christ is in you, [the] body is dead by means of sin, but Pneuma -- life by means of righteousness. 11 But, if the Pneuma of the One who raised up The Jesus from the Dead resides within all of you, the One who raised up Christ Jesus will also make your mortal bodies alive by His indwelling Pneuma in you. [NCMM]

Paul literally writes “you are not in flesh” and by this he means “you are not fleshly.” Or, “You are not in harmony with the flesh.” That is, “not controlled by the flesh.” [BER] Paul uses the plural “you” referring primarily to the Roman Christians. Some, though professing discipleship, may yet be “fleshly.” (1 Corinthians 3:3). Most of Paul’s readers were “in Spirit” or “spiritual.” In contrast to the first phrase, likely, “but [you are] in harmony with the Spirit.” That is: spiritually minded, not fleshly minded as discussed above. (Galatians 5:25)

This spiritual mindedness can only occur “if God’s Spirit resides within you.” Other versions render this phrase: KJV: if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you; TCNT: since the Spirit of God lives within you; GDSP: has really taken possession of you; WMS: has His home within you. All of these attempt an interpretative paraphrase. It seems possible that Paul’s meaning is: “You (Romans) are spiritually-minded because God’s Spirit dwells within you (Romans).” Jesus may paraphrase this whole phrase when he rebukes Peter: “You are not minding the things of The God, but the things of humans.” (Matthew 16:23 NCMM)

Any person who does not possess “Christ’s spirit” does not belong to him. This possibly means: “If any disciple does not have the mind of Christ such a person does not belong to him.” The Greek PNEUMA may be used of mind, mental inclination or disposition. Christ is also the conduit or instrument of the dispensation of God’s holy Spirit. A true spiritual person is someone in whom Christ has taken up residence by the Spirit. Twice Paul has qualified the matter with “if.” It seems likely that he means, “… if, indeed, Christ does dwell within ...” In both cases the meaning could also include Christ’s dwelling within the Romans as a corporate body. (1 Corinthians 3:16)

The fleshly body of the Christian “is dead because of sin.” [KJV] James Moffatt paraphrase the meaning: “though the body is a dead thing owing to Adam’s sin.” Despite this situation the indwelling Spirit provides “life by means of righteousness.” A difficult sentence, but if read listening for Paul’s tone and pause, it becomes clear. Translators approach the verse phrase from different angles allowing for several views -- MON: your spirit is full of life because of righteousness; WMS: your spirits are now enjoying life because of right standing with God; NEB: yet the spirit is life itself because you have been justified. The meaning may be: “your body is dead because of sin while your pneuma [mind, inner being, mental inclination] is living because of righteousness.” [Compare Galatians 2:20.]

Paul uses the analogy of this new life in Christ to God’s use of His Spirit to resurrect Christ. Paul has used PNEUMA in several forms or modes in these verses. PNEUMA may mean the mental pressure of God which is exerted as an invisible force to accomplish His will. God thinks and it is done. Twice Paul will repeat the powerful miracle of the resurrection of Christ. (Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 6:14) The result of this indwelling Spirit of God and Christ is explained by Paul.

The indwelling Spirit of God has “taken possession of you.” [GDS] The disciple is possessed of divine thinking, spiritually minded because God’s thinking through Christ resides within. This also results in “the making of your mortal bodies alive.” Rotherham renders this: “shall make alive even your death-doomed bodies.” There are several views: a) a reference to the resurrection (Philippians 3:11, 21); and, b) a reference to the justified condition in which one formerly died in sin is now spiritually alive. (John 5:24; Ephesians 2:5; 1 John 3:14) Though some will se the resurrection of the human body here, others do not. (1 Corinthians 15:50-52; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10) One thought would be: “by his indwelling Spirit in your lives” [MON] though the human body is dying due to sin, this dying body is energized and enlivened by godly thinking. The result is that this fleshly, dying, sinful body can still be used habitual good. Those who use such a body in a good way will be so rewarded in the parousia-judgment. [2 Corinthians 5:10]

God’s Children are Led by Spirit

Romans 8:12-17

12 Truly, then, brothers, we are accountable not to fleshly living -- [that is] to live in harmony with flesh. 13 For, if you live in a fleshly manner you are destined to die. However, if you [live] a spiritual [life], and put the body to death, you will live. 14 For everyone led by God’s Pneuma are God’s sons. 15 Because, you did not receive a slave’s frame of mind causing more fear. Rather, you received an adoptive son’s frame of mind, in which we cry out, “Abba! The Father!” 16 The Pneuma [of God] itself provides testimonial evidence with our frame of mind that we are God’s children. 17 Therefore, if we are children [we are] also heirs. Indeed, God’s heirs, but [also] Christ’s joint-heirs. [That is] if, indeed, we suffer together so that we also will be glorified together.

The Fleshly Life

It likely confused some who were used to living a fleshly life under strict regulations in the Law of Moses. How could one live spiritually without 600 rules and commands? Paul writes that now that Christ has taken up residence within us we are not bound to a fleshly form of life. Or, as the New English Bible puts it: “we are not obliged to live on that level.” Paul’s alludes back to his previous point regarding a new life, not a fleshly one, but a spiritual one. (Galatians 5:19) The disciple of the Nazarene ceases to live a life driven by the fleshly or physical. For “if you live in a fleshly manner you are destined to die.” The Christian is not “under the control of the physical.” [GDS] A life without God is driven by self -- fleshly in character -- and doomed. [See notes on Romans 1:32]

Rather than living a life driven by the flesh Paul urges to “put the body to death.” Or, NEB: put to death all the base pursuits of the body; TCNT: put an end to the evil habits of the body. [Compare 1 Corinthians 9:27; Colossians 3:5; Galatians 5:24; 6:8.] Putting the body to death, or deadening the body, is a process of sanctification, “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1, 2; 1 Thessalonians 4:3) Paul writes in a similar vein in Colossians 3:1-5, “If however you have risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, enthroned at God's right hand. Give your minds to the things that are above, not to the things that are on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ appears -- He is our true Life -- then you also will appear with Him in glory.” [Weymouth Translation] This requires living a true spiritual life.

The Spiritual Life

In contrast to the above fleshly life, Paul writes, “If you live a spiritual life you will live.” This is a new life -- opposite of the former -- which is God-centered and Christ-minded. For as Paul writes, “All led by God’s Pneuma are God’s sons.” Knox renders this: “those o follow the leading of God’s Spirit are all called God’s sons.” Humanity is not by nature “children of God” for they have been born in sin inherited from their fleshly father, Adam. (See notes Romans 5:12-14.) Jesus did not teach the divine childhood of all humankind. [Compare notes on John 1:12, 13.] All persons led by the divine mental pressure of God are His children by virtue of a spiritual birth and regeneration. (See John 3:3-5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3, 4, 23; James 1:18; 1 John 5:1)

Upon their spiritual rebirth following their water baptism Paul writes: “You did not receive a slave’s frame of mind causing more fear.” That is, fear caused by the Law of Moses. The Christian Saint is no longer a slave to such commandments. The Greek PNEUMA occurs several times in this context with different meanings: God’s power, a disposition, inclination, or frame of mind. (Galatians 4:24, 25; 5:1; Hebrews 2:15)

In contrast to that former sense of condemnation and slavery, Paul says the God-born disciple “received an adoptive son’s frame of mind.” The “spirit” (PNEUMA) of a slave and a son are quite different: the slave living in fear, the son in hope of an inheritance by a father’s love. Compare 1 Corinthians 2:11, 12; 2 Timothy 1:7 where PNEUMA may be the mind or a mental disposition characterized by certain attributes. Humankind are not children of God by natural birth. Due to sin a person must be adopted to become a child of God. (Galatians 4:5; John 1:12, 13; Romans 8:23; Romans 9:4; Ephesians 1:5]

This new frame of mind or spirit can now “cry out, Abba! The Father!” [Or, MON: my Father, my Father.] ABBA is an Aramaic word meaning Papa. It is the endearing term first used of small children for father or grandfather. Jesus used the precious yet respectful term for God once. (Mark 14:36) Paul uses it in one other place. (Galatians 4:6) According to some it was a designation rarely used in Judaism (Isaiah 64:8) and never in Greek literature. In the Hebrew Bible God is never addressed as “Father” save in those Messianic contexts. (Psalm 89:26) In some cultures elderly persons are addressed respectively as Papa or Mama. Jews in Paul’s day did not address God as ABBA, and so he means the Christian Saint has entered a new and intimate relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus. How would the individual Christian know this new relationship exists?

A Personal Testimony

Paul answers this question with the words “The Spirit [of God] itself provides testimonial evidence with our frame of mind that we are God’s children.” This well known phrase is also rendered: KJV: the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God; KNX: assures our spirit; PME: endorses our inward conviction; TAY: speaks to us deep in our hearts. God’s own mental thoughts exert pressure upon the mind and heart of the disciple as if providing testimony in a court of law, giving evidence of a genuine sonship with God. And since no one can read another’s mind, or spirit, this is a private testimony between God and the Saint. [Compare 1 Corinthians 2:10-12.] This is also called being “born again” or “spirit begotten.” (John 3:3-8)

In the 1st Century many Christians received a gift of the Spirit as visible evidence of God’s adoption of them as His children. This continued until the Church reached maturity about the end of the 1st Century. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on 1 Corinthians 13:8-12.] This phrase regarding the Spirit’s witness is also used in Hebrews 10:15 where Paul quotes Jeremiah 31:31-33 regarding the New Covenant: “Additionally, the holy Spirit testifies to us, for later it has spoken to us [in Jeremiah 31:31 ‘This is the covenant that I will covenant toward them after those days’.” [NCMM]

This may be compared to a slave who receives two letters: one from the slave-owner and one from his father. The heart and mind [the inner spirit] reacts in two different ways to both letters. There is a different disposition or attitude between the slave-master and the father and this is reflected in the reaction of the recipient of the letters. In a similar manner as the disciple of the Nazarene reads and meditates on his Sayings -- and the inspired letters of his own inspired disciples - God’s spirit inspires a sense of sonship or childhood. As a result a real and intimate relationship develops between the spiritual child and Father. This strengthens and grows throughout the Christian life as child and Father grow closer and closer to one another.

An Inheritance for Adopted Children

Paul argues that “If we are children [we are] also heirs.” The words inherit or heir(s) occurs dozens of times in the Christian Bible. Jesus uses the idea in his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:5; 19:29; 21:38; 25:34; Mark 10:17) Paul uses it at Acts 20:32; 26:19; 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10; 15:50; Galatians 3:18; 5:21; Ephesians 1:14, 18; 5:5; Colossians 1:12; 3:24; Hebrews 1:4, 14; 6:12; 9:15. Peter uses it at 1 Peter 1:4; 3:9; 5:3. And, John in Revelation 21:7. These Christian Saints are “God’s heirs” and as children they will receive the inheritance from their Father.

There are also joint-heirs with Christ Jesus. That is, they share the inheritance with Jesus. [Ephesians 3:6] Note the prophecy on inheritance at Psalm 2:8 and Daniel 7:27. World rule by the Church and Messiah is part and parcel of the inheritance. This inheritance however is conditioned.

Paul adds his “if” when he says that in order to gain the inheritance each Christian must be willing to “suffer together” with other members of the Church. The inheritance is condition upon this requirement. One version puts this, “share Christ’s sufferings.” [TCN] This was the kernel of truth in the Nazarene’s teaching: “If anyone wishes to follow me they must disown ‘self’, heft a personal cross, and then keep following me constantly.” [Matthew 16:24 NCMM] It is only then that “we will be glorified together.” That is, receive the promised inheritance. (2 Timothy 2:11; Revelation 3:11) Will others besides the Saints experience ultimate freedom? Paul writes:

Freedom of God’s Children

Romans 8:18-25

18 For, I consider that the sufferings of this current season are unworthy compared to that future glory to be revealed in us. 19 Because the eager anticipation of the [human] creation is eagerly anticipating the revealing of the sons of The God. 20 For, the [human] creation was subjected unto vanity, not willingly, but through the One who subjected, in hope 21 that also the [human] creation itself will be liberated from slavery to decay [in the grave] unto the glorious liberty of the children of The God. 22 For we realize that all the [human] creation groans together in painful moans until the present. 23 And not only that, but also we the firstfruits of the Pneuma, we also groan within ourselves, fervently anticipating an adoption as sons -- the release by ransom of our Body. 24 Because we were saved [in this] hope; but hope beheld is not hope. For who hopes for what one beholds? 25 But, if we behold not what we hope for we fervently anticipate it by endurance. [NCMM]

A Revelation of Heavenly Sons

Paul contrasts this present time period with its sufferings and that of future heavenly glory. The King James Version renders Paul’s words: “I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with” that wondrous inheritance in union with Christ. For a consideration of Paul’s own suffering read 1 Corinthians 4:11-13 and 2 Corinthians 11:21-29. Not all suffering is because of persecution. Suffering may include the sin and death at work in our bodies -- the sickness and decay. Suffering may be matters beyond our control -- wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilence. Suffering may be self-inflicted. (1 Timothy 6:10) Peter uses the word “suffering” more than any other writer, with sixteen uses of it in his two epistles.

These are nothing in contrast with “that future glory to be revealed in us.” There is a future glory for all the Saints that will surely be revealed to all human creation. (2 Corinthians 4:17) No sufferings in this life can equal the glory of the Church. In making this contrast there is something of Psalm 90:10, 15, “The span of our lives is seventy years - eighty for those who are strong - but their whole extent is anxiety and trouble, they are over in a moment and we are done. … Let our joy be ass long as the time that you afflicted us, the years when we experienced disaster.” [NJB]

All the human creation since Eden have longed for God’s solution to humanity’s seasons of suffering. Without knowing all the details men and women have longed for an earth living in peace and security. Paul phrases it this way: “The eager anticipation of the [human] creation is eagerly anticipating the revealing of the sons of The God.” The Weymouth Translation words it this way, “all creation is yearning, longing to see the manifestation of” of the Saints in their inheritance. And another version paraphrases it: “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.” [PME]

Paul has in the mind the human creation that began in Eden. It is unlikely that Paul means every human creature who has ever existed looks forward to the revealing of the sons of God. Surely, the Jews and other peoples anticipated the fulfillment of God’s purpose first revealed in Genesis 3:15. On the other hand, few peoples of all tribes and races, have not had some hope that the Creator’s people -- whoever they may be -- will one day come to light. By “sons of God” Paul means the Body of Christ, the Church, the Messianic Kingdom. (Daniel 7:27; Revelation 20:4, 6)

God’s judgment on our original parents, Adam and Eve, meant “creation was subjected unto vanity.” Others render this word “vanity” as imperfection, or futility. [Compare Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 1:2-4.] Because of the rebellion of the prime parents in Eden their offspring were cursed by a defective DNA, causing them to become imperfect role models so that all human families became dysfunctional. (See notes on Romans 5:12.) God was “the One who subjected” the human creation because of disobedience. [Romans 5:14-17]

However, God did not leave humankind without hope. In a cryptic manner Genesis 315 foretold that “Creation itself will be liberated from slavery to decay.” By “decay” Paul means corruption, or the shackles of mortality. [NEB] Psalm 49:7-11 describes this suffering life ending in decay: “But no one can ever redeem himself or pay his own ransom to God, the price for himself is too high; it can never be that he will live on for ever and avoid the sight of the abyss. For he will see the wise also die, no less than the fool and the brute, and leave their wealth behind for others.” [NJB] [Compare Hebrews 2:14] Liberation from the decay and corruption of sin and death infers a restoration or resurrection from the grave. [Compare Psalm 16:10.]

The Freedom of Human Children of God

Paul now changes the use of his terms. He has up to this point spoken of the HUIOS, or “sons” of God. Now he mentions, “The glorious liberty of the children of The God.”: It is possible that Paul is deliberate in not using HUIOS (sons) here, but TEKNON (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5043), children. There appear to be two groups: a) the sons of God to be revealed to human creation; and, b) the human creation longing for such revelation who will also become “children.” These two groups are seen in Daniel 7:12, 27 where the “saints of the Most High” [the Sons of God] exercise dominion over all peoples, tongues, tribes, nations, and kingdoms [the Children of God]. We hear in Paul’s words the restoration of Eden. [Compare Ephesians 1:9-11.]

Both the sons of God and all human creation “groans together in painful moans.” The Philips Modern English Version renders this: “It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail.” And even “we the firstfruits of the Spirit …groan among ourselves.” The Prophets foretold an out-pouring of holy Spirit. The first of these were the Jews at Pentecost and some years later the non-Jews, beginning with the household of Cornelius. All these became the “firstfruits of the holy Spirit.” [Compare Isaiah 32:15; 44:3; 61:1; Acts 2:17.] Despite the glorious hope of the future there is that groaning of the Church suffering in pain for the Day of the Lord. [Compare 2 Corinthians 5:2.]

The Saints “fervently anticipate an adoption as sons” while the human creation longs for that liberty or freedom to be enjoyed in Edenic paradise here on earth. While this hope is a given based on God’s original purpose for humanity [Genesis 1:28; Isaiah 45:18] the “sons of God” with the hope of an inheritance in Christ looked forward to a “release by ransom of our Body.”

There are several views on this reading. Some, accepting the King James Version and others think it is the individual human bodies of the Saints that will be redeemed or ransomed. [KJV: the redemption of our body; TCNT: the redemption of our bodies; BER: bodily redemption.] However, the Greek SOMA (body) is singular with the article: “the redemption of the body of us.” This may suggest Paul does not have in mind the individual bodies of each Christian but the entire deliverance of the whole Church.

Judging from what Paul writes elsewhere the human body of the Saint is dissolved in the decay of the grave. [2 Corinthians 5:1, 2] Upon their resurrection they receive a completely different body. [Philippians 3:21] Paul describes this spirit-body as heavenly, spiritual, immortal, incorruptible, without blood and flesh, and patterned after the image, not of Adam, but of the risen Christ. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 on 1 Corinthians 15:20-54.]

Paul writes that those Christian Saints “were saved in this hope.” In the Church there is only this “one hope.” [Ephesians 4:4] To Paul there is a present saving state and also a future, ultimate salvation. [2 Timothy 4:8] Peter is of the same mind on this subject of future salvation. [1 Peter 1:3-5] Though the living Saint is in a saved condition, the dead Saint must await the Parousia and heavenly salvation. [1 Corinthians 15:22, 23; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17] Paul says that “hope behold is not hope” but rather the Saints “fervently anticipate such hope by endurance.” However, if the Christian disciple cannot see this hope, or envision this hope, how can each one pray regarding it?

How the Spirit Helps the Saints

Romans 8:26-30

Having discussed the unseen thing hoped for, Paul addresses this weakness in prayers. It is not always possible to know what to pray for as the occasion arises. Paul explains how the “spirit” of the praying disciple is understood by God and so silent moans make their pleadings before Him. God’s works cooperate with these prayers on behalf of the Saints in harmony with His purpose. Paul explains this “cooperation” or synergy on God’s part in arranging for everything in advance. The sons of God have been pre-arranged to be patterned after their eldest brother, Jesus. Paul writes:

26 And likewise also the pneuma joins in with help for our weaknesses. Because what we should pray for as is necessary we do not know; but, the pneuma itself pleads our case in moans unspoken. 27 However, the One searching the hearts knows what the mind[ing] of the Pneuma is according to pleadings to God regarding the Saints. 28 But, we are aware that the synergy of The God is for the good of those loving The God, to those who have been invited according to His purpose. 29 Because whomever He foreknew He also marked out in advance that they be conformed to the image of His Son that he might be the Firstborn of many brothers. 30 Now whomever He marked out in advance He also invited. Those He invited these He also pronounced innocent; and those whom He pronounced innocent, these He also glorified. [NCMM]

Christians though having died to sin still have many weaknesses. Here the weakness is not a complete understanding of the “one hope.” Thus, this weakness may lead to an inability to know what to pray for as needed. The problem is prayer. The problem is knowing what to always pray for. An example might be Paul’s own prayer regarding his “thorn in the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9) However, Paul writes that the “spirit joins in with help.” Or, as the Phillips Modern English version has it: “helps us in our present limitations.” This whole series present translation problems and there are various understandings. The Greek word SYN-ANTI-LAMBANETAI (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4878) is “together-opposite-take hold of,” or, cooperates.

Paul assures that “the Spirit itself pleads our case in moans unspoken.” Translations vary in their approach: KJV: the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered; RHM: sighings unutterable; GDS: inexpressible yearnings; BER: sighs too deep for words. Paul has mentioned groans and moans above when he described the suffering pain during the present season. The Greek word for “pleads our case” is HYPENTYGKHANEI (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #5241), or, above-entreat, intercession.

The question is how does this PNEUMA do this. Some use this as proof of the Person of the Holy Ghost feeling the PNEUMA here is the holy spirit. The subject is prayer. Did the PNEUMA pressure, or inspire, the prayers of the first Christians? Compare language similar to that in these phrases here at 1 Corinthians 14:14, 15, “For if I pray in a tongue it is my PNEUMA praying but my mind is unfruitful. ... I will pray with the PNEUMA but I shall pray with [my] mind.” It seems possible that the pneuma here (breath, wind) is that of the person praying under the pressure of God’s PNEUMA.

When the charismatic Christian was praying under the pressure of God’s PNEUMA, inspired as it were, Paul says, “the One searching the hearts knows what the mind[ing] of the PNEUMA is.” Others render this: KJV: he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the spirit; CON: the desire of the spirit; RHM: preferred by the spirit; TCNT: what the spirit’s meaning is. God is the one who searches hearts. (Acts 1:24; Hebrews 4:12) The meaning may be: the One who reads hearts reads the mind of the one praying under inspiration. The phrasing is similar to 1 Corinthians 14:14, 15 where prayers as gifts of the spirit are the subject. These inspired prayers of the 1st Century Christians were part of the Spirit-Helper Jesus promised to send to his apostles “to guide them into all the truth.” [John 16:13] In the Christian Bible we have several examples of such inspired prayers. [Ephesians 3:14-21]

The main focus and purpose of these inspired prayers were according to pleadings to God regarding the Saints.” The “pleadings” may be those of the petitioner “praying in spirit.” (Compare notes on Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20)

Paul expresses his confidence that what God does or wills He does so, not at cross purposes, but with a certain “synergy [Greek: SYNERGYEI] … for the good of those who love God.” [Or, KJV: we know that all things work together for good to them that love God; MON: continually work together; PME: everything that happens fits into a pattern for good.] God has known exactly what He was going to do from the beginning. He had an “eternal purpose” in relation to not only Christ, but also to all the Saints as members of his Church.

Paul identifies such as “those who have been invited according to His purpose.” [Or, KJV: to them who are the called according to his purpose.] Compare the “invitation” (same word for “called”) at Matthew 22:1-14. All are invited, and God knew in advance what kind of persons these would be. He did not predestine the individuals, but the type of individual and their place in His “administration.” [Ephesians 1:9, 10, 18] It is not enough to just be called or invited. One must also be “chosen and faithful.” [See Revelation 17:14.]

Paul says God “foreknew” those that would compose the Church. The Greek for “foreknew” is PRO-EGNO (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4267), that is, before-know, prognosticate, prognosis. Others render this word: RHM: fore approved; GDS: marked out. Though some see the makings of predestination in this verse, others understand that God purposed a type or class to reign with Christ. There is a major difference between predestination and knowing something in advance. [On predestination see the publication Nazarene Principles.]

Paul explains exactly what God foreknew: “He also marked out in advance that they be conformed to the image of His Son.” [Or, KNX: moulded into the image of his Son.] The question is what did God mark out in advance, or foreordain. The Greek is PRO-ORISE (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #4309, or, before-horizon). It is conformity to a certain image that God has foreordained the Saints. Likely this means He predetermined two major things: a] The Saints would inherit the same kind of spirit life as the Son; and, b] they would live lives patterned after the role model left by the Son - a course of self-sacrifice in humble obedience.

This is made clear in Paul’s parallel phrase: “That he might be the Firstborn of many brothers.” [Or, MON: the eldest of a great brotherhood.] Paul writes of the same thing in Hebrews 2:10, 11: “For it was fitting for [The God] -- for whom the Universe exists and from whom the Universe originates -- in bringing many sons unto glory, to perfect the Chief Leader of their salvation by means of sufferings. Because [Jesus] the One sanctifying, and those who are being sanctified, all originate from One [God]. So for this reason [Jesus] has no cause to be ashamed in calling [those sanctified] ‘brothers’.” [NCMM] Christ and the Saints are “brothers” -- all sons of God.

God knew in Eden He would “mark out” first the Jews and that He would give them a seven year period of grace to accept the Messiah and the heavenly invitation. Paul writes: “Now whomever He marked out in advance He also invited.” God had foreordained first the Jews and then the non-Jews to be invited. The Nazarene himself gave a parable illustrating this invitation. [Matthew 22:1-14] When the time came by means of His Son He invited the Jews between 29-33 AD to the celestial marriage. After seven years, beginning in 36 AD, God had foreknown He would invited non-Jews. Paul states this good news was prophesied in the case of Abraham. (Galatians 3:8)

Not only were these Jews and non-Jews invited, or called, they were also “pronounced innocent.” Others render this phrase: KJV: whom he called them he also justified; RHM: declared righteous; WEY: acquitted; GDS: makes upright; WMS: brings into right standing. [See notes on Romans 5:18.] The calling or invitation comes first, then justification to righteousness. (1 Corinthians 6:11; Titus 3:7)

Such invited and justified persons, whether Jew or non-Jew, can now be authorized as children of God. [John 1:12, 13; 3:3-5] This brings a certain glory or honor to them from God’s standpoint. Those invited and justified are now in a glorified state from the standpoint of God. [See 2 Corinthians 3:7, 18; 4:6.] In such an innocent and glorified standing who would dare to file some accusation against them? Paul writes:

Who Accuses the Elect?

Romans 8:31-34

Paul begins to summarize his arguments. He gives two reasons why none should accuse the Elect: God Himself was willing to sacrifice His own Son in behalf of the Church; and, Christ is the one who pleads the case of the chosen ones. Who, then, can possible make a judgment against the Saints? Paul uses Psalm 110:1 and Isaiah 53:12 as part of his argument.

31 What, then, will we say? If The God is for us who will be against us? 32 [The God], who did not spare His own Son but surrendered him in our behalf, how will He not also -- together with [His Son] -- charitably give us everything? 33 Who will make an accusation against God’s chosen ones? God is the One who pronounces innocent! 34 Who is the one judging against [them]? Christ Jesus -- the one who died -- rather, [the one] who was raised up from those dead -- who is at the right hand of The God [Psalm 110:1] -- who also pleads our case [Isaiah 53:12] in our behalf. [NCMM]

Not all agree with this innocence and glorification of these children of God. However Paul assures: “If The God is for us who will be against us.” [Or, TCN: if God is on our side, who can there be against us.]God “did not spare His own Son but surrendered him in our behalf.” The thought is overwhelming and beyond description! (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21) Each Saint rests safe in the Father’s bosom so that no harm may come to him or her. The Son shares in this charitable act of unmerited favor. (Philippians 2:5-7) The Messiah with his Saints will be “freely given everything.” This is part of their inheritance. The New English Bible expresses it this way: “and with this gift how can He fail to lavish upon us all He has to give.”

Paul asks some rhetorical questions to comfort all the Saints. First he asks, “Who will make an accusation against” the Saints? The Greek is ENG-KALESEI KATA Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1458 and #2596, or, in-call-against, as in bringing a charge against someone for a debt or something else. There is a strong echo here of Isaiah 50:8 in the LXX. Satan is one who accuses the Saints as he did Job. (Job 2:1-5; Revelation 12:10) Weak or wicked “brothers” make false accusations amounting to blasphemy. [See notes on 2 Peter 2:10.] Jewish and non-Jewish opponents also falsely accused the early disciples. (Romans 3:8; Colossians 1:22.)

It is a shame that even some Christians begin to slanderously accuse glorious members of the Church, particularly elders. Both Peter and Luke mention this: “These false teachers are arrogant and impudent, completely absorbed in themselves. They have no respect for godly authority. They speak abusively of these authorities while angels who stand before the Lord -- though much more superior in strength and power -- dare not utter any kind of abusive criticism.” [2 Peter 2:10, 11 NCMM Paraphrase] And the disciple Jude writes: “Indeed also just so these fleshly fantasizers disrespect authority and reject those honored by their abusive talk.” [Jude 8 NCMM]

After all these are “God’s chosen ones.” The Greek is ECLECTON (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1588) and means elect or chosen. It is a designation used of Israel and the members of the Christian Church. In this choosing it is “God is the One who pronounces innocent.” If the ‘Judge of All the Earth’ (Genesis 18:25) declares a person not guilty, or innocent from sin, who dare utter any kind of accusation against them? (Hebrews 10:17, 18) All in the Church do well to reflect on this matter in the context of gossip and slander.

Paul asks a second question, “Who is the one judging against [them]?” [Or, KJV: who is he that condemneth; CON: what judge can doom us.] The Greek is KATA-KRINON (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #1458, or, down-judge.) According to the teachings of the Nazarene it is not a good idea to judge or condemn others of like faith. Jesus taught: “You, condemn not, that you are not condemned. For you will be judged with that judgment by which you are judging!” [Matthew 7:1, 2 NCMM] [Romans 14:10]

Not only does God “pronounce innocent” those Saints “patterned after the image of His Son” but Paul also says Jesus “’pleads our case’ [Isaiah 53:12] in our behalf.” [Or, KJV: maketh intercession; NEB: pleads our cause.] There seems an allusion here to the Hebrew Text of Isaiah 53:12 which uses the word PAGA [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance #6293, to make intercession]. [Compare notes on Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1.] The image of our Lord before the Throne arguing our case as a defense attorney is refreshing - even liberating! With such loving and powerful Persons fighting for our defense and liberty it is comforting that complete liberty is assured!

Complete Victory

Romans 8:35-39

Considered by some as one of the most sublime portions of Holy Scripture, Paul bursts into a crescendo of praise for the love of God by means of Christ Jesus. He first lists seven possible obstacles to God’s love. Though treated as sheep for the slaughter by oppressive powers, Paul assures the Church that victory is already attained. Paul expresses his conviction regarding ten things that will never separate us from God’s love in Jesus. Paul writes:

35 Who will separate us from the loving concern of Christ? Oppression? Distress? Persecution? Food shortage? Lack of clothing? Danger? Execution? 36 Just as it has been written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long! We have been considered sheep for slaughter.” [Psalm 44:22] 37 However, in all of these things we are victorious by means of the One showing loving concern for us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things future, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other creation will ever be able to separate us from God’s loving concern in Christ Jesus our Lord. [NCMM]

Things that Could Separate Us from Christ’s Love

Paul demands, “Who will separate us from the loving concern of Christ?” [Compare the love of Christ for his Church in Ephesians 5:24-32.] Paul now joyously bursts into one of his famous lists in a series of questions.

All of these things which could possibly separate the disciple from Christ were foretold in the Bible. Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 and applies the principle to the Christian Church. The Saints are likened to sheep for slaughter even as was Jesus. (Isaiah 53:7; Acts 8:32)


Paul is triumphant when he sings, “In all of these things we are completely victorious!” [Or, KJV: more than conquerors; WMS: keep on gloriously conquering; PME: an overwhelming victory.] [See notes on 1 John 4:4; 5:4; Revelation 3:21; 2 Corinthians 2:14] Paul’s list of those things that might separate a disciple from Christ’s love may be conquered by the very love of Christ. He only sees victory and liberation in the future of the Saints.

Paul expresses his conviction that nothing can separate the Saint from Christ. Paul lists exactly ten things that can never separate the Church from God’s love through Jesus Christ.

None of the above, according to Paul’s own conviction “will ever be able to separate us from God’s loving concern.” The sum total of everything that is in the cosmic universe is unable to break God’s love for us. “In Christ Jesus our Lord” God’s love is never apart from His own Son for whom he first expressed His love and through whom He demonstrates His love to all.

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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