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

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s analysis of Romans chapter 8 (previously posted), followed by his comments on verses 31-39. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture passage he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS CHAPTER 8

In this chapter, after inferring from the foregoing that the baptized have nothing deserving of damnation, except so far as they consent to the motions of concupiscence (verse 1), the Apostle tells us that we are rescued from the dominion of concupiscence by the grace of the Gospel (Rom 8:2-4.) He shows the different motions and effects of the flesh and of the spirit (Rom 8:4–9). He exhorts us to live according to the spirit, and points out the spiritual and eternal life of both soul and body, resulting from such a course (Rom 8:9–11). He next exhorts us to follow the dictates of the spirit, and to mortify the deeds of the flesh, in order to escape death and obtain life (Rom 8:12-13)—to act up to our calling as sons of God, and to conform to the spirit of charity and love, which we received, unlike to that of the Jews of old, and by thus acting as sons of God, to secure the Heavenly inheritance, which we shall certainly obtain, on condition, however, of suffering (Rom 8:13–17). Lest this condition should dishearten them, he points out the greatness of God’s inheritance,—so great indeed is it, that he personifies inanimate creatures, and represents them as groaning for this glorious consummation. The very Christians themselves, although in the infancy of the Church, they received the sweet pledge of future glory in the choice gifts of the Holy Ghost, were sighing for it (Rom 8:17–24). The Holy Ghost, besides the assurance he gave them of being sons of God, was also relieving their necessities and prompting them to pray with ineffable ardour of spirit (Rom 8:26-27). The Apostle encourages them to patient suffering by pointing out to them that they were predestined for these sufferings as the means of their sanctification and future glorification (Rom 8:28–30), and, finally, he excites them to confidence in God (Rom 8:31–39).

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

After this abundant manifestation of concern on the part of God for us, what shall we say? Shall we despond? By no means; since, it God be for us (as he really is), who can succeed in opposing us?

This is said to animate them with greater courage in bearing up against the crosses and persecutions of this life, knowing that God is for them, and destines all temporal evils for their good (verse 28); how, then, can any temporal misfortune or persecution from men ultimately harm them.

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?

He who has not spared his natural, only begotten Son, but rather delivered him up to death for us all, what will he not give us? In giving us his Son, has he not with him given us every grace and blessing that shall secure our final happiness?

God has given us the greatest earnest and pledge of his love, in delivering up to death, and in not sparing “his own Son,” his natural, well-beloved Son, for our sakes. “Hath he not also given us,” &c.; in the Greek it is in the future, χαρισεται, “will he not also give us all things?” The meaning, however, is not changed, for in giving us Christ, he has virtually given with him all blessings and graces, and he has given us a sure earnest of arranging the decrees of his Providence, so as to lead securely to our final happiness. Having given us what is greater, when we were his enemies, he will not hesitate to grant us what is less, when we are his friends; having obtained the master, why hesitate about the possessions?—St. Chrysostom. What an excess of charity on the part of God. “He spared not,” whom?—His own Son, “by whom all things were made.” On whose account? On account of us, his wretched creatures, the work of hands, his sworn enemies, owing to our manifold sins.

Rom 8:33  Who shall accuse against the elect of God? God is he 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.

33, 34. Who shall institute an accusation against those whom God has elected and made his own by grace? It is God, the judge of all, who pronounces their sentence of acquittal; who then can presume to condemn them? It is Christ Jesus himself who died for us, who has risen from the dead for us, who sits at the right hand of God the Father, that intercedes for us, as our advocate.

There is a great difference of opinion regarding the punctuation of these two verses. Some persons place a note of interrogation after each member of the sentences, thus: “Who then shall accuse against the elect of God? Is it God that justified?” To which the implied answer is: By no means. “Who is he that shall condemn? Is it Christ Jesus that died—yea, that is risen again?” &c. By no means. Others following the punctuation, as given in the Vulgate, interpret the words thus: “Who shall accuse the elect of God?” No one; since God has pronounced the sentence of their acquittal. “Who shall condemn?” No one; since Christ Jesus has died to save them, &c. In the Paraphrase is preferred the interpretation and construction adopted by Estius, who, adhering to the punctuation of the Vulgate, connects the words “God that justifies,” not with the preceding clause, but with the following: “who then shall condemn?” And the words, “Christ Jesus that died—yea, that is risen,” &c., with the following verse (35), “who then shall separate us from the love of Christ.” There apppears to be an allusion in these words to the 50th chapter of Isaias, and with this allusion the interpretation now given accords best. In the 33rd verse the Apostle appears to be arming and encouraging the Romans against the assaults and persecutions of their external enemies, whether Jews or Gentiles. In this, he is strengthening them against the alarms and terrors of conscience, which their past sins were apt to engender. “Who sits at the right hand of God,” i.e., as man, he holds the highest place next to God in heaven. “Who also maketh intercession for us.” He intercedes not by suppliant prayer, but by exhibiting his wounds, and the merits he gained by his sufferings.—(See Hebrews, 9:24).

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?

What, then, after receiving so many blessings from God, shall separate us from the charity which in turn we owe to Christ? Is it bodily affliction? mental anguish? famine? nakedness? danger? persecution? the sword?

“The love of Christ” may refer to the love Christ has for us, but it more probably refers to our love for Christ, since it alone could be effected or endangered by the causes referred to in this verse, how could “tribulation, famine,” &c., affect the charity of Christ for us? Hence, the words mean, who or what can deprive us of the love for Christ, which these great favours and sufferings on his part so imperatively demand at our hands?

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.)

Which afflictions, David predicted, would be always the lot of the pious and virtuous, in whose person he speaks when he says (Psalm 44): “For thy sake are we put to death all the day long. We are regarded as sheep destined for the slaughter.”

As it is written: “For thy sake,” &c. These words are taken from the 43rd Psalm, and are generally supposed to have been written by David. In it, the Psalmist is supposed by the Greeks to represent, in a prophetic spirit, the sufferings of the Machabees. The Latins say that the Psalm is prophetic of the sufferings of the early martyrs of the Christian Church. Most probably, it refers to both; it is here taken by the Apostle, to refer to the sufferings, which the faithful are destined to undergo, in defence of the law of God in all ages.

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

But, far from yielding in these trying circumstances, we even obtain by means of them a triumphant victory through the grace and strength imparted to us by him who has loved us.

“We overcome;” the Greek, ὑπερνεικῶμεν, means “to obtain a most complete victory,” i.e., we have more than sufficient strength to overcome our enemies. What a beautiful illustration of this is furnished us by St. Chrysostom, after having been expelled by Eudoxia (Epistola ad Cyriacum), “since the queen wishes to drive me into exile, let her do so; the Lord’s is the earth and its fulness. If she wishes to have me sawn in two, let her do so,; Isaias suffered the like punishment. If she wishes to cast me into the deep, I will remember Jonas; to stone me, I shall have Stephen, the first martyr, for an associate; to take away my head, I shall have for an associate John the Baptist; to deprive me of my substance, let her do so, “naked have I come forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thereto.”

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,

For I entertain a confident hope and firm persuasion, that neither threats nor fears of death, neither hopes nor promises of life, that neither spiritual powers, however strong, whether demons or good angels, from whatsoever order of spirits (were they to attempt it); that neither things present nor things to come, that neither the strength of earthly powers,

St. Augustine quotes this passage from the Apostle, from verse 31 to the end, as a specimen of the most finished and impassioned oratory. “I am sure.” The Greek word, πεπεισμαι, only expresses a moral certainty, a firm persuasion, and confidence. It is taken in this sense, and it could bear no other, in 15:14, of this Epistle, 2 Timothy, 1, Hebrews, 6 and 11. Here, therefore, it furnishes no argument in favour of the special faith of heretics. We can, moreover, say that St. Paul is speaking of himself in the person of the elect, and who can say, regarding himself, that he is among the elect? And some of the Protestant writers themselves say that the “love of God,” referred to here, is the love of God for us. So that, even following their interpretation, there is not a shadow of argument for their erroneous doctrine. “Nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers.” These words refer to three of the different orders of angels, and under the three orders the rest are included; by some Commentators, they are referred to the demons, who fell from the different; orders of blessed spirits; by others, to the good angels, in which interpretation the Apostle makes an impossible hypothesis, as in Galatians, chap. 1, “If an angel from heaven should preach a different doctrine,” &c. “Nor might” is not in the Greek; it, most probably refers to the powers of this world, as opposed to the spiritual powers referred to before.

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.

Nor the height of prosperity, nor the depth of adversity; in a word, that no creature whatsoever shall be able to separate us from the charity by which we are united to God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Height, depth,” may also mean the things in the heavens, in the air, and under the earth and sea, &c.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 8:31-39

  1. Pingback: Commentaries and Resources for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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