Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 8:31-39

Text in red are my additions. 

THE LOVE OF GOD FOR US
A Summary of Romans 8:31-39.

The certainty of the Christians’ future glory being proved, St. Paul now terminates the second section of the Dogmatic Part of this Epistle with a hymn of praise and triumph, moved by the evidence of the love of God and of Christ which the reasons for our hope have inspired. He shows that the faithful have nothing to fear, and that nothing can separate them from the charity of Christ.

Rom 8:31. What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who is against us?

What shall we, etc., i.e., what conclusions are we Christians to draw from the arguments we have just finished considering?

To these things (προς ταυτα), i.e., about the arguments we have just given.

If God be for us,—as He evidently is from the preceding verses—who is there that we should fear? Surely no one, is the implied response.

Rom 8:32. He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?

The Apostle here gives a most undeniable proof that God is for us, and that He has provided us with all things necessary to conquer our enemies.

He that ( ος γε), i.e., the God, indeed, that spared not, etc. If God has given us so immense a benefit as His only Son to suffer and to die for us, what other lesser good can He refuse us? The words του ιδιου υιου (“his own son”) show the difference between God’s own natural Son and His sons by adoption. This is the only instance in the New Testament where γε (“that”) is used with the relative.

The donavit of the Vulgate should be donabit, in conformity with the Greek.

Rom 8:33. Who shall accuse against the elect of God? God that justifieth.
Rom 8:34. Who is he that shall condemn? Christ Jesus that died, yea that is risen also again; who is at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

In these verses St. Paul shows the absurdity of the Christians thinking or feeling that anyone can be against them (verse 31).

Who shall accuse against the elect of God, i.e., against the Christians? Certainly no one, because it is God that has justified them, absolving them of all guilt. In the face of God’s acquittal, the condemnation of the world counts for nothing.

Who shall condemn them? Certainly not Christ, the Judge of the living and the dead (Rom 2:16; 2 Cor 5:10); for it is Christ that has died for our sins and risen again for our justification (Rom 4:25), and that now sits at the right hand of God (1 Cor 15:24) to make intercession for us (1 John 2:1). Therefore no one shall be able to oppose us Christians. The context shows that the Apostle is speaking not alone of the future judgment, but of the general condition of the Christians, present and future. It is disputed whether the clauses, God that justifieth and Christ Jesus that died, etc., should be read as affirmations (Cornely, Kuhl, etc.), or as interrogations (St. Aug., Toussaint, Weiss, etc.). The sense is the same in either case, and the responses in reality are certainly negative.

Rom 8:35. Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? or distress? or famine? or nakedness? or danger? or persecution? or the sword?

The Apostle now shows that, after so many blessings, nothing in the world ought to be able to separate Christians from the love of Christ, i.e., the love of Christ for them.

Then (Vulg., ergo), is not represented in the Greek.

Love of Christ, for us, according to modern interpreters. The Apostle is insisting on the certainty of our future glory because of the gifts we have received from God, not because of our faithfulness to Christ; this latter of course is presupposed. “Love of Christ” here is doubtless the same reading as “love of God” in verse 39, which shows that St. Paul identified Christ and God.

Rom 8:36. (As it is written: For thy sake we are put to death all the day long. We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.)

The tribulations unto death of the just had already been described by the Psalmist in Ps 44:22 (44:23 in some translations), where there was question of persecutions which the people of Israel sustained from their enemies (very probably under Antiochus Epiphanes, when some of the Israelites were put to death) for the sake of God. The Apostle applies these words to the Christians to show what they must bear for Christ, thereby again identifying God and Christ.

For thy sake, i.e., for the cause and religion of the true God.

All the day long, i.e., continually.

There should be no parentheses around this verse.

Rom 8:37. But in all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us.

In all our tribulations, distresses, etc., we come out victorious because of the help we receive from God, because of the love of Christ for us. As in verse 35, so here it is Christ’s love for us that is in question. The reading: δια τον αγαπησαντα is supported by only three MSS.; the best MSS. have: δια του αγαπησαντος.

The Vulgate propter eum should be per eum.

Rom 8:38. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor might,
Rom 8:39. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Apostle here tells us that, on account of the love which God has for us in Christ, nothing, even the most terrible, or the most alluring things in creation can suffice to separate us from God. St. Paul is stressing the potency of God’s love for us, which nothing can shake or impair, except, of course, our own will.

Death, the most terrible physical evil.

Life, the most desirable good of the present natural state. 

Angels, i.e., spirits sent as messengers.

Principalities, spirits of a superior order.

Powers (Vulg., virtutes), i.e., forces of nature. This term “powers” is wanting in the best MSS., and is likely a repetition of fortitude (fortitudo) of the Vulgate. No powers, conditions or influences of the present or future time, no creature, material, human or angelic, can separate the Christian from God—from the love which God has for us and which He has shown us through Christ. St. Paul is here emphasizing God’s love for us, which, of itself, is able to do so much for our souls; he is taking it for granted that we shall not choose, by our own free will, to defeat the effect of God’s love for us.

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