Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 8:8-11

I’ve included Fr. Callan’s brief summary of Romans 8:1-11 followed by the commentary on the reading. The liturgical reading begins at verse 8 but I’ve begun the post at verse 6.

THE FOURTH FRUIT OF JUSTIFICATION: THE HAPPINESS OF REGENERATED MAN, WHO NOW HAS GRACE TO LIVE A CHRISTIAN LIFE, AND THEREBY IS GIVEN A PLEDGE OF HIS RESURRECTION
Romans 8:1-11

A Summary of Romans 8:1-11~This chapter contains a sublime exposition of the precious treasures and glorious prospects of the Christian life. In the present section the Apostle concludes, after all that has been said so far regarding the fruits of justification, that those who have been regenerated in Jesus Christ by Baptism are no longer under penalties; for the new life effected in us by the Spirit has delivered us from former tyranny. The shortcomings of the Law, which was undermined by the perversity of the flesh, God has supplied for by sending His Son to triumph over the flesh, and to enable us to live hereafter according to the spirit, thus fulfilling the Law in our lives. This last they cannot do who follow the flesh, because the flesh and the spirit are mutually opposing agencies. But the spirit of Christians has been reinforced by God’s Spirit dwelling in them. Being in Christ they possess His Spirit, and so are enabled not only to live a spiritual life now, but to look forward to the glorious life of the resurrection.

6. For the wisdom of the flesh is death; but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace.

The wisdom (το φρονημα), i.e., the aspiration, the tendency of the flesh is toward the death of the body and of the soul; but the aspiration or tendency of the spirit, i.e., of grace, is toward life and peace here and hereafter. The difference here indicated is the contrast between a life of sin and a life of grace in union with Christ.

7. Because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God; for it is not
subject to the law of God, neither can it be.
8. And they who are in the flesh, cannot please God.

In these verses St. Paul gives two reasons why the wisdom, i.e., the tendency of the flesh is towards death: (a) because it is an enemy of God, the source of all life, since it is not subject to the divine will as expressed in God’s law, but seeks rather the things that God has forbidden; (b) because they whose flesh is under the domination of sin, whose flesh cooperates with sin, cannot please God, and are consequently surely condemned to death.

Neither can it be, i.e., so long as the wisdom of the flesh holds sway, it cannot be subject; let the wisdom of the flesh cease, and man can be subject” (St. Aug.).

Verse 7 in the Vulgate has translated (φρόνημα) by sapientia (i.e., wisdom), but studium or affectus is again the correct word. The phrase inimica est Deo should be inimicitia est in Deum.

9. But you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

The Apostle now applies his doctrine to the Roman Christians. But you Romans in your life do not follow the promptings of the flesh, the enemy of God, but the promptings of the spirit, i.e., of grace, if so (ειπερ), i.e., if, as I have reason to believe, the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, abides in you. St. Paul takes care to note that if the Romans are following, as he believes, the promptings of grace, it is not due to their own efforts, but to the Holy Ghost who dwells in them. But since it is possible for the Christian to lose, through mortal sin, the Holy Spirit whom he received in Baptism, who is the Spirit of Christ as well as of God the Father, St. Paul goes on to observe that if anyone has lost this Holy Spirit, he no longer pertains to Christ, and has ceased to be a living member of Christ’s fold.

The Spirit of God is here the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit that proceeds equally from the Father and from the Son (John 15:22). The text proves nothing against the distinction of the Third Divine Person; neither does it prove directly that the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Son. The Spirit is here termed the Spirit of Christ because He dwells in the soul through union with Christ.

10. And if Christ be in you, the body indeed is dead, because of sin;
but the spirit liveth, because of justification.

Here the Apostle says to the Romans that if Christ by His Holy Spirit dwells in them, their bodies indeed are dead, i.e., subject to death, on account of original sin in which they were born; but their spirit, i.e., their souls, live the life of grace for the purpose of producing good works, the fruits of “justification.”

Because of justification (δια δικαιοσυνην) can mean: (a) that the justification given to the soul by God is the source of the spiritual life (St. Thomas, Cornely); or (b) that the spiritual life is the source of good works, that the spiritual life is propter justitiam exercendam (Lietzmann, Lagr.).

11. And if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead, dwell
in you; he that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead, shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

In this verse we are told that they in whom the Spirit of God dwells do not only enjoy now the life of grace for their souls, but that they shall also have their mortal bodies raised gloriously from the dead on the last day. The Resurrection of Jesus and of all the dead is attributed to the Father because the Resurrection is a work of power, and to the Father especially such works are attributed. As God, of course, our Lord raised Himself from the dead (John 10:18) ; but as man He was raised by the Father. The Resurrection of Christ was the type of our resurrection (1 Cor 6:14; 2 Cor 4:14; Philip 3:21; 1 Thess 4:14). The reason here assigned for the resurrection of the bodies of the just is because during life they were the temples of the Holy Ghost. The Apostle is not now speaking about the resurrection of the wicked.

Because of his spirit, etc. There are different readings of this final clause. Soden prefers the genitive reading:  “through the Spirit dwelling in you,” which would mean that the Holy Ghost will be the immediate cause of our resurrection. The accusative reading, which is that of the oldest MSS., has: δια το ενοικουν αυτου πνευμα, i.e., “on account of the Spirit dwelling in you,” propter dignitatem Spiritus, etc. This latter is the reading adopted in the Vulgate.

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One Response to Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 8:8-11

  1. Pingback: Resources and Commentaries for the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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