Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 8:1-17

1. There is, then, no damnation now to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh.
2. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has freed me from the law of sin and death.
3. For, what was impossible for the law, because it was weakened through the flesh, God sending his Son in the likeness of the flesh of sin, and condemned sin for sin in the flesh.
4. That the justification of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.

Ch 8. Having in the last chapter described the conflict between the spirit and the flesh, the Apostle proceeds in this one to proclaim, with magnificent eloquence, the victorious power of the Spirit of God, the certainty of victory, and the unimaginable splendour of the glory reserved for the Saints.

1. There is no damnation. Having said, in the concluding verse of the last chapter, with my mind I serve the law of God, he goes on to say that in such as serve that law, and are baptized unto Christ Jesus, and do not follow the flesh, or allow themselves to be led by it, there is, notwithstanding the rebellion of the lower and earthly nature, nothing that can incur God’s condemnation. It is a misery to the child of God to be sensible of the motions of concupiscence within himself; but he has the comfort of knowing that involuntary movements of concupiscence are not sin. To serve the law of sin, in the last chapter is a different thing from walking according to the flesh, in this.

To serve the law of sin, Saint Chrysostom says, is to be subject to the desires of the animal and sensuous nature; to walk according to the flesh is to follow those desires, and allow them to rule our life.

The Greek text adds at the end of this verse, bid according to the spirit.

2. For the grace of the life-giving Spirit of God, like a law written in our hearts, has set me free, and all other Christians, from the dominion of concupiscence, from its guilt, and from death, its companion. It is an empire within us, claiming to rule and dominate all our impulses and passions.

3. The law could not condemn sin. It was the object for which it was given, but the law was found powerless to effect this object, not from any inherent weakness in itself, but from the weakness and infirmity of man, who failed in fulfilling it. But what the law could not do, God effected (Saint Chrysostom supplies the verb, which is omitted in the text) by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He does not say in the likeness of flesh, as if the body of Christ was a phantom of the real. Christ has a true body, which in his mortal life was like the sinful bodies of other men, and of the same nature, but most holy, because united to the Word. He was in all things like us, sin excepted.

Condemned sin for sin in the flesh. Convicted sin of sin. Another personification. Sin was a tyrant, who had usurped the empire of Christ : and Christ convicted and sentenced him, as guilty of all the accumulated sins of the human race, crowned by the murder of the Son of God, and crucified him in his own body, in the flesh. As it was from the flesh that sin derived all its strength and power, so from the flesh it received its condemnation. The Saints of God also, in measure, condemn sin in the flesh, by the mortification of its evil desires.

4. That the justification of the law might he fulfilled in us. The justice of the law, which men without the grace of God could not fulfil, owing to the infirmity of the flesh. And the justice of the law is fulfilled in us, by our walking not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. It is not sufficient, Saint Chrysostom says, for the Christian to keep from evil, but he ought to bloom and blossom in good. He should exhibit a life worthy of God, as one of the sons of God, and be led by the Spirit of God, given to him as the spirit of adoption.

St Chrysostom: (So showing, that it is not only binding upon us to keep ourselves from evil deeds, but also to be adorned (koman) with good. For to give thee the crown is His; but it is thine to hold it fast when given. For the righteousness of the Law, that one should not become liable to its curse, Christ has accomplished for thee. Be not a traitor then to so great a gift, but keep guarding this goodly treasure. For in this passage he shows that the Font will not suffice to save us, unless, after coming from it, we display a life worthy of the Gift. And so he again advocates the Law in saying what he does. For when we have once become obedient to Christ, we must use all ways and plans so that its righteousness, which Christ fulfilled, may abide in us, and not come to naught.

5. For those who are according to the flesh, study the things of the flesh; but those who are according to the spirit, feel the things of the spirit.
6. For the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace.
7. Because the wisdom of the flesh is hostile to God:for it is not subject to the law of God, and cannot be.
8. And those who are in the flesh, cannot please God.
9. But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit: if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. And if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he is not his

5. Carnal men think of, study, care for, and make it the object of their existence to compass the ends and objects of this passing life; and do so with a skill and persistence which has elevated their pursuit into a science. Those who are of the Spirit, study what is of heaven. As the heart is, so will be the life, animal or spiritual, of earth or heaven. This science of the flesh is the death of the soul; the science of the spirit is the life and peace of the soul. The wisdom of the flesh is the death of the soul, because it is hostile to God, or, as the Syriac says, at enmity with God, and repugnant to his law: naturally, necessarily, eternally at war with it. Irreconcilable war between the creature and the Creator means the ruin and destruction of the creature; for the creature subsists only by God’s love and mercy.

8. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. The study and pursuit of objects which have their source and origin in the fall of man, and arise out of his degradation, cannot in their own nature be a source of pleasure and interest to the Eternal; and those who give their lives to the pursuit of such objects, cannot, so long as they do so, please God.

9. You who have been baptized, and have received the Spirit of God, are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit. Living for God, not for time. That is so, unless the Spirit then given has withdrawn from you. If from anyone the Spirit of God has withdrawn, that man is not in reality any longer a Christian. The spirit of the world is vain, carnal, earthly. The spirit of the devil is proud, arrogant, envious. The Spirit of Christ is gentle, humble, heavenly, and this is the spirit of Christ’s religion. And if anyone has not this spirit, he is not Christ’s.

10. But if Christ is in you, the body indeed is dead on account of sin, but the spirit lives on account of justification.
11. But if the Spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead, dwells in you: he who raised up Jesus from the dead, shall quicken also your mortal bodies, on account of the spirit that dwells in you

10. If  Christ is in you. If Christ dwells in you by his Spirit, you have indeed a body which is subject to death on account of Adam’s sin, but your spirit, through the justice of Christ, lives the life of grace, and will soon live the life of glory.

The Greek has, the Spirit is life, on account of justice. Your soul lives the life of grace through the justice of Christ.

The Christian is made up of a dead body, that is a body subject to death, and a spirit that lives, by grace now, by glory hereafter. Sin and concupiscence are the source of death within us; the Holy Spirit is within us the principle of life. He is essentially life in himself; in us he is the source of spiritual life. We cannot but fear, for death is in our veins; we cannot but rejoice, because true
life dwells in us.

But the life of the soul is not our only life for eternity. The Spirit that dwells in you is the Spirit of God the Father, who raised up Jesus from the dead, and who will, therefore, one day raise up your bodies also, from mortal made immortal, because they are the habitation of the Spirit. On account, says St. Thomas, of the dignity with which your bodies are invested as dwelling-places of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle’s doctrine has no sympathy with the false philosophy which condemns the material creation as unholy. It is God’s handiwork, and capable of the highest sanctification. Christ himself, in his material nature, is seated in glory at the right hand of God. Our resurrection is the sequel of our baptism. The Holy Spirit is given us in our justification as an earnest of what is to follow: eternal life of soul and body. Christ, in whom the fulness of the Spirit dwelt, rose full of immortality and glory, in the highest possible degree; and in proportion as our souls receive the fulness of the Spirit, our bodies will participate in the glory of Christ.

12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, that we should live according to the flesh.
13. For if you shall have lived according to the flesh, you will die: but if by the spirit you shall have mortified the deeds of the flesh, you will live
14. For whoever are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, in which we cry, Abba (Father)

12. We are debtors, not to the flesh. The flesh is the material nature of man under its present physical conditions, which in our fallen estate will, if we suffer it to rule us, lead us to sin and death. It is the spirit that has the right to rule us, not the flesh. To the flesh we owe no allegiance; but we owe to the Spirit that we are Christians, that our soul lives the life of grace, that we shall live the life of glory. It is then to the Spirit, not the flesh, that we are debtors.

13. If you live after the flesh, you must die, the death of guilt now, the death of eternal damnation hereafter, says Saint Thomas.

14. Those who have the Spirit of God dwelling within then are acted on, guided, led, and directed, by that Spirit. Christ was led by the Spirit into the desert, and the devil asked him if he was the Son of God (Matt 4:1, 3). The Ethiopic version reads: Whoever do those things which belong to the Spirit of God: that is, as in the last verse, mortify the deeds of the flesh . These are truly and really sons of God, having a heavenly nature. On a certain day the sons of God came to stand before the Lord, Job 1:6. We cannot, says Saint Chrysostom, dispose of our own lives, but should give ourselves up, soul and body, to the guidance of the Spirit of God, our helmsman, and our charioteer. But this control and guidance of the Spirit of God is not coercive or forcible. It implies the motion and, in a passive sense, inclination of our will, such as does not exclude freedom of action. To be led by the Spirit of God is to consent to his leading, and give it our voluntary obedience, confident that it must lead us to increase of grace and justice, and to life eternal.

15. You have not received the spirit of bondage again. Again, because the spirit of the law of Moses was a spirit of servitude and fear. Holy men under the old law were sons of God only in an imperfect manner, and in a lesser degree, like slaves, differing in nothing from servants, Gal 4:1. What you have received is the spirit of sonship or adoption, entitling you to say with Christ, and with all confidence, Our Father. As the divine Word gave himself to Christ, the Man, so that the Man named Christ, is the Son of God: so in proportion the Holy Spirit is given us in Baptism in such way as to make us Sons of God. Cornel, a Lap. in loc.

The Apostle contrasts the spirit of bondage not with the spirit of freedom, but the spirit of adoption; not merely free, but free as sons.

He does not say, we say Abba, but we cry; boldly, loudly, confidently, publicly. Instructed by holy precepts, and formed by divine institution, we venture to say, OurFather. Abba is the Hebrew or Syriac word for father, and to it he joins the Greek word with the same meaning, to signify that Jews and Gentiles are together called to the adoption of the sons of God. Saint Augustine, lib. de Spiritu et litcra, 32 de Cons. Evan. 4.

It is also possible that Saint Paul refers to the prayer of our Lord in the garden, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; as an encouragement to address him by the same title, with the same confidence in his affection, under similar circumstances of trouble or despondency.

Before the coming of Christ the people of God were undoubtedly entitled in a certain sense to speak of God as their father, but only in a metaphorical sense, and on the ground of creation. “Now, Lord, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our Maker” (Isa 64:8. In some translations, 64:7). This is clearly applicable to all the race of men. And on the ground of providence: “Thy Providence, Father, governs the world” (Wis 14:3). But not on the ground and by right of adoption, an honour reserved for those who are sons of God in Christ, and which is expressed in the formula of the Apostle, Abba, Father.

16. For the Spirit itself gives testimony to our spirit, that we are sons of God.
17. And if sons, also heirs: heirs indeed of God, and co-heirs with Christ: if we suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him

16. The Spirit himself gives testimony. The cry of our hearts, inasmuch as it proceeds from the Spirit of God, is a testimony of our divine adoption. The giving to us the Spirit, is itself a testimony of this; for he is the Spirit of the Son, and God gives the Spirit of his Son to those only whom he would have for sons. The Apostle may possibly also include a reference in his mind to exterior testimonies, as in miracle or prophecy, more frequent in his days than in ours. Horror of sin, love of God, readiness to obey his commands, and to follow the motions of the Holy Spirit, peace and tranquility of conscience, troubled by no grave and conscious sin, are interior testimonies of the Spirit of God, with our spirit, that we are sons of God. We should not, however, with the heretics, come to regard this interior testimony as certain with the certitude of faith. Such testimony, in so far as it proceeds from the Holy Spirit, is certain and infallible in itself, but as presented to our consciousness it is certain only conjecturally and morally, because we are not sure whether it proceeds from the Holy Spirit, or from an evil spirit, transfiguring himself into an angel of light.

17. If sons, also heirs. God does not die, and his inheritance is not a succession. He is himself the inheritance. Heirs of God. The Lord is the portion of my inheritance, Ps 15:5. To the enjoyment of this inheritance, his adopted sons are admitted, in the Beatific Vision. An inheritance not diminished by the number of the sons, or reduced by division among many claimants, says St. Anselm.

Co-heirs with Christ, if we suffer with him. We are heirs of a living God, co-heirs with a man who died. Sharing his death, on our own cross, we shall be glorified with him in his inheritance. Without participation of the cross, there is no participation of glory; but the expectation of the promised beatitude is sure and certain, where there is participation in the Passion of the Lord. St. Leo, Serm., 9 de Quad.

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One Response to Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 8:1-17

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for Pentecost Sunday | stjoeofoblog

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