Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 8:1-11

Text in red are my additions.

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.

Rom 8:1. There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh.

After having shown that those justified by means of faith in Christ are delivered from the wrath of God, from sin, and from the Law, St. Paul draws a very important and consoling inference, which is a conclusion to all that has preceded since Chapter 6 We know from sad experience, he says, what it means to be under the Law, and we know also what it means to be under grace. Now, i.e., under the New Law of grace, there is no condemnation, i.e., there is nothing that merits condemnation to them that are, etc., i.e., to the faithful who by means of Baptism have been incorporated in Christ Jesus (Rom 6:3-10) and live by His life (Rom 6:11, Rom 6:23), members of His body, as the branches live from the vine (1 Cor 12:13; Gal 2:20; John 14:19-20).

Who walk, etc. This final clause of the verse is wanting in the best Greek MSS., and is regarded as a gloss by most critics. Hence also in the Vulgate, qui non secundum carnem ambulant should be omitted.

Rom 8:2. For the law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath delivered me from the law of sin and of death.

This verse is a proof of the preceding. Those who are in Christ Jesus live according to the Spirit that has delivered them from the law of sin and death, i.e., they live a spiritual life through the grace of the Holy Ghost which is communicated to their souls. The law of the spirit can mean the law of the Holy Ghost, as such; or the law of grace, the proper effect of the Holy Ghost communicated to man (St. Thomas). The second meanings seems more probable here. The opposition is with the law of sin which was in our flesh, and to some extent with the law of the reason (Rom 7:23). Sin, as is supposed, has been forgiven, and the law of reason has been fortified by the law of grace.

Of life, i.e., of life in Christ Jesus. It is better to join Christ Jesus with life than with hath delivered (St. Thomas, Kuhl, etc.).

Me (μέ), the reading of the Vulgate and of the ordinary Greek, is better supported than “thee” (σε) by the Fathers; but less so by the MSS. The sense is the same in either case, since the question regards regenerated man.

The law of sin does not mean concupiscence, because it is a matter of faith and of experience that the Christian is not free from this effect of original sin. It means, therefore, the dominion of sin, from which we are delivered by the spiritual life, the life of grace. By this same spiritual life, or life of the spirit, we are delivered from the law of death inasmuch as temporal death would be at the same time eternal death (Lagrange).

Rom 8:3. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh; God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh;

In the preceding verse we were told how Christians through their union with Christ are delivered from sin, and here we see how God has condemned sin through the Incarnation of His Son. St. Thomas says this verse shows three things: (a) the necessity of the Incarnation, (b) the mode of the Incarnation, (c) the fruit of the Incarnation.

For what the law could not do ( το γαρ αδυνατον του νομου). Literally, “What was impossible to the law”—not because it was not good and holy in itself, but because of our corrupt human nature—God has effected by sending his own Son, i.e., through the Incarnation of His Only- begotten Son.

In the likeness, etc. The resemblance between the flesh of Christ and ours was in this, that the Word of God assumed real human flesh and human nature just like our own, but without the stain of sin upon it. Christ’s conception was by the Holy Ghost, not by sinful man; and the flesh and blood which He took was of the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Hence He had our real human nature and flesh, but not the corruption which sin has left in our nature—Ostendit nos quidem habere carnem peccati, Filium vero Dei similitudinem habuisse carnis peccati, non carnem peccati (“He showed that we indeed have the flesh of sin, the Son of God was shown to have the likeness of sinful flesh, and not the flesh of sin” – Origen). But since the human nature of Christ, although pure and holy, was subject to pain and death, which were the consequences of sin, it is said to have had the likeness or resemblance of sinful flesh.

And of sin (και περι αμαρτιας), i.e., on account of sin, in order to destroy it. These words are to be connected with what precedes (Cornely, Lagrange); they show that the mission or purpose of Christ’s coming was to conquer sin and thus redeem man.

Hath condemned sin, i.e., has destroyed the reign of sin personified which, from the fall to Christ, held mankind in slavery. But when was this destruction of the dominion of sin effected? Some say it was at the death of Christ on the cross, but others (Lagrange, Zahn, etc.) hold that the deliverance here spoken of through the condemnation of sin took place at the very time of the Incarnation itself of the Son of God. It was then that God saw all that Christ would do to conquer sin, and then that sin was vanquished, because Christ took flesh free from sin (Lagrange).

In the flesh, i.e., in the flesh of Christ immolated for us all on the cross. God finally condemned and cast out sin through the sufferings of His Only-begotten Son “in the flesh,” especially on the cross. This victory of Christ over sin is extended to all flesh, i.e., to all human nature, inasmuch as all by faith and grace may share in the merits and triumph of Christ.

The in quo (“in that”) of the Vulgate has the sense of quia (“because”) or quatenus (“in so far as”). The accusative in similitudinem  (“in the likeness” – εν ομοιωματι) follows the participle mittens (“sending”) because motion is implied.

Rom 8:4. That the justification of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit.

That the justification, etc. God destroyed the regime of sin in order that “the justification of the law,” i.e., the moral precepts or commandments of the Law, might be fulfilled in us. The passive might be fulfilled (πληρωθη) is used to show that the observance of the Law is due more to the action and grace of God, than to our efforts and strength.

In us, who walk, etc., indicates the fact of our cooperation with God’s grace in living not according to the concupiscence of the carnal man, but according to grace. The Greek πνευμα (“spirit”),  as opposed to σαρκα (“flesh”) here, means grace, the spiritual principle of our actions, and not the Holy Ghost (Lagrange).
Rom 8:5. For they that are according to the flesh, mind the things that are of the flesh; but they that are according to the spirit, mind the things that are of the spirit.

The opposition between the flesh and the spirit, indicated in the preceding verse, induced the Apostle to show more at length (verses 5-8) the contrasts between the two. They that are according to the flesh, i.e., they that follow the concupiscence of their flesh, put their thoughts and affections in the things of the flesh, such as impurity, gluttony, and the like; whereas they who follow the spirit, i.e., grace, aspire to the things of grace, which are charity, joy, peace, etc.

Sentiunt of the Vulgate is not in the Greek (i.e., the second “mind” in verse 5 is not in the Greek).

Rom 8:6. 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.

In the Vulgate prudentia (prudence, understanding, wisdom) would better be studium (interest, pursuit), affectus (affection, desires, inclinations).

Rom 8:7. Because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God; for it is notsubject to the law of God, neither can it be.
Rom 8:8. 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 (interest, pursuit) or affectus (affection, desires, inclinations) is again the correct word. The phrase inimica est Deo (is the enemy of God) should be inimicitia est in Deum (is at enmity with God).

Rom 8:9. 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.

Rom 8:10. 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 (“the exercise of justice”– Lietzmann, Lagrange).

Romans 8:11-12

A Summary of Romans 8:11-12~These two verses are a corollary from all that has been said since chapter 6, and they give the final answer to the objections of Rom 6:1 and Rom 6:15. From what has been said it follows that for all the benefits that have been enumerated we are not debtors to the flesh, which enslaved us to sin and which of itself would again reduce us to slavery. The Apostle leaves it to be understood that we are debtors to the Spirit, to live according to its dictates rather than according to the dictates of the flesh.
The works of the flesh lead to the death of the soul here and hereafter. But if we live in the spirit which we have received in Baptism, which is a principle of spiritual life in us, opposing to the works of the flesh the works of grace, we shall live now

Rom 8:11. 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; Phil 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 inhabitantem Spiritus, etc. This latter is the reading adopted in the Vulgate.

Rom 8:12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh
Rom 8:13. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live.

These two verses are a corollary from all that has been said since chapter 6, and they give the final answer to the objections of Rom 6:1 and Rom 6:15. From what has been said it follows that for all the benefits that have been enumerated we are not debtors to the flesh, which enslaved us to sin and which of itself would again reduce us to slavery. The Apostle leaves it to be understood that we are debtors to the Spirit, to live according to Its dictates rather than according to the dictates of the flesh.

The works of the flesh lead to the death of the soul here and hereafter. But if we live in the spirit which we have received in Baptism, which is a principle of spiritual life in us, opposing to the works of the flesh the works of grace, we shall live now the life of grace, and hereafter the life of glory. There are, therefore, for the Christian the alternatives of eternal life, if he lives according to the spirit; or of eternal death, if he follows the dictates of the flesh. The spirit here means the principle of the spiritual life, namely, grace (Cornely), and not the Holy Ghost (Zahn, Kuhl). With this verse St. Paul has done with the flesh, and turns to consider more exclusively the spirit.

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