This post contains a brief summary of Romans 8:14-30 followed by the notes on 8:22-27.
THE CHILDREN OF GOD ARE HEIRS OF FUTURE GLORY
A Summary of Romans 8:14-30~In this section the Apostle considers the qualities of Christians, who are the adopted sons of God. If we are sons of God, we are heirs with Christ, and therefore heirs of future glory (Rom 8:14-18). The certainty of this future glory is proved: (a) from the desire of irrational creatures (Rom 8:19-22); (b) from the desire of the faithful (Rom 8:23-25); (c) from the desire of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us (Rom 8:26, 27); (d) from the designs of God Himself (Rom 8:28-30).
22. For we know that every creature groaneth, and travaileth in pain, even till now.
Groaneth, and travaileth, as a woman in the pangs of childbirth, who feels the pain of her present state, but looks forward to another one of joy when the child is born (John 16:21). Nature feels its state of bondage even till now, i.e., at the present moment, as it has felt it all along since the Fall; but the figure of parturition here used does not mean that, as in the case of a woman in childbirth, nature is soon to be delivered from its sufferings. Its emancipation will follow only upon the glorification of man.
23. And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.
The Apostle now passes to the second argument in favor of the certainty of our future glory. Not only it, i.e., not only irrational nature yearns for deliverance from the present state of corruption, but ourselves also, i.e., all Christians, have the same longing. It is not correct to say, as some of the ancients did, that ourselves refers only to the Apostles.
The first fruits of the Spirit, i.e., the first gifts of the Holy Ghost, such as faith, sanctifying grace, hope, etc., but which are not the fulness of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that shall be ours in the state of glory. Lagrange and others understand “the first fruits of the Spirit” to mean the Holy Ghost dwelling in us with His grace, who is an earnest and a pledge of the gift of glory hereafter (2 Cor 5:5).
The adoption, i.e., the complete and perfect adoption which will consist in the glorification of both soul and body; now we enjoy only that imperfect adoption which follows upon justification. The last and final fruit of our consummate adoption will be the resurrection and glorification of our body. The body needs redemption, because it became the seat of sin and death (Rom 7:24; 8:11), because it is through the body that we are connected with the physical universe, and because our happiness would not be complete without the redemption of our whole being, body as well as soul.
Of the sons of God (Vulg., filiorum Dei) is not in the Greek.
24. For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen, is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?
St. Paul shows here that our adoption and salvation are now complete only in hope, and not in reality. Hence τη ελπιδι is a modal dative, which shows the manner in which our redemption is now complete, namely, in hope. Being justified we have already the beginning of our salvation and perfect adoption, the full possession and realization of which waits upon the glorification of both our body and our soul.
As a matter of fact, according to the doctrine of St, Paul, we are saved by faith; we firmly believe that God will save us, and hope vividly anticipates the fulfillment of God’s promises and the realization of all we believe.
But hope that is seen, etc. The meaning is that hope regards an absent object, and not one “that is seen,” that is present. That which is present and is seen, is no longer hoped for.
For what a man seeth, etc. Better, “Who hopeth for what he seeth” (ο γαρ βλεπει τις ελπιζε, as it is in the Vatican MS.).
25. But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.
But if we hope, etc., i.e., it is of the essence of hope to regard not that which is present, but that which we see not; and for this we wait with patient endurance (δι υπομονης), steadily resisting all adverse influences. Patient and firm expectancy is the peculiar quality of Christian hope.
26. Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For we know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings.
The third proof of the certainty of our future glory comes from the Holy Ghost who dwells in the faithful soul. As the creature, and as we ourselves yearn for our complete redemption, so likewise does the Holy Spirit, who dwells in our hearts. And this Holy Spirit also helpeth (συναντιλαμβανεται, i.e., lends a helping hand and cooperates with us) the infirmity of our prayers.
For we know not, etc. Although we know in a general way from the Our Father (Matt 6:9) what form our prayers should take, still often we do not know how to ask in particular cases. At these times the Spirit himself comes to our aid and asketh for us, i.e., moves us to ask as we ought (Matt 10:20), putting on our lips unspeakable groanings, i.e., words unintelligible to man, but understood by God. There is question here of an extraordinary kind of prayer in which the soul is absorbed in God, and does not understand what it says or what it does. The state is somewhat comparable to that of the gift of tongues possessed at times by the early Christians who could pray in strange languages without being able to interpret their prayers (1 Cor 14:2-39); but there is not a complete parity between the state here mentioned and that of those early Christians. The gift of tongues has disappeared now, but the inspiration or direction of the Spirit concerning which St. Paul wrote to the Romans is always present to the faithful soul, teaching it how to pray (Matt 10:20).
27. And he that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what the Spirit desireth; because he asketh for the saints according to God.
While the utterance which the Spirit frames for us and puts on our lips may be altogether inexplicable to us and unintelligible to others, nevertheless God, whose science penetrates all the secrets of our hearts (1 Sam 8:39; Ps 7:10), knoweth the desires (το φρονημα) which the Spirit utters through us, i.e., God knows the end to which the petitions of the Spirit tend and the purpose which they serve.
Because (οτι, in the sense of quod, that). God knows not only the desire of the Spirit, but He knows also that what the Spirit asks is always conformable to the divine will (κατα θεον), and tends, therefore, to the fulfillment of the divine decrees and to the consequent salvation of the faithful soul (Cornely).
For the saints (υπερ αγιων) , i.e., on behalf of those who are dear to God, namely, the faithful.