The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 8:12-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 17, 2012

This post includes a brief summary of verse 14-30 following the comments on verses 12-13.. Comments on verses 14-17 follow the summary. Notes in red, if any, are my additions.

12. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh
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.

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).

14. For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Whosoever are led, etc., i.e., those who are governed by the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, and who, consequently, repress and control the desires of the flesh, are the sons of God, because sanctifying grace, communicated to them by the Holy Ghost, unites them to Christ, and makes them members of His mystical body and His brothers. To be a son of God, therefore, it is necessary not only to have received the Holy Ghost, but to be also governed by Him.

15. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear; but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father).

This and the following verse constitute a kind of parenthesis in which the Apostle shows why Christians are truly the adopted sons of God. He does not say that formerly they received the spirit of servitude, but only that the spirit they now have is unlike that which used to move them. Hence παλιν (“again”) is to be joined to εις φοβον (“in fear”), and not to ελαβετε (“received”).

You have not received, etc., in Baptism the spirit of bondage or slavery which in Judaism you possessed, and which made you serve God without affection and from fear, as an unwilling slave would serve his master. Such a spirit could not come from God, or be pleasing to God.

The pagans served their divinities in this servile manner, being always moved by the fear of chastisement. The Jewish Law also was called the law of fear, because it did not exclude all servility. To secure its observance it had no power to confer grace (Rom 9:3; Gal 3:12, Gal 3:21), but was forced to hold out threats of chastisement or promises of temporal reward (Heb 8:6; Heb 9:15). A spirit like this, says the Apostle, the Christians have not received. On the contrary, they have received the spirit of adoption of sons, i.e., a disposition of mind and soul which enables them to serve God out of love, as a good son would serve his father.

The spirit, therefore, which the Christians have received, and which is here in question, is not the Holy Ghost (verse 16), nor a supernatural principle of their actions, but a disposition of mind given by God, and as such, supernatural, similar to the spirit of wisdom spoken of in the Old Testament (Isa 11:2-3; Isa 28:6). Cf. Lagr., h. 1. This spirit is a characteristic mark of a Christian, whereby he is known to be of the adopted sons of God; and of a filial disposition of soul which makes him freely choose to serve God not out of fear, but out of love. To this spirit of piety which the Christian possesses the Holy Ghost also bears witness (verse 16) that the faithful are the sons of God.

Abba is an Aramaic word which the Apostle here tells us means Father (cf. Mark 14:36; Gal 4:6). Some think the term pertained to an official prayer, but more probably it was only an expression of tenderness toward God, the Father.

16. For the Spirit himself giveth testimony to our spirit, that we are the sons of God.

This verse completes the previous one and shows still more clearly that we are the sons of God. For the Spirit himself giveth testimony, etc., i.e., the Holy Ghost joins our spirit (verse 15) in bearing witness that we are truly the adopted children of God, because it is by the impulse of this Holy Spirit, together with our own, that we, with filial love, invoke God by the name of Father (Gal 4:6). Here, however, we must observe that short of a special divine revelation we can never be absolutely certain that we are in a state of grace and are the sons of God; and that, consequently, the testimony which seems to come from the Holy Spirit may not be a deception of our own minds or of the evil one (cf. Conc. Trid., Sess. VI. de Justif., cap. 9. can. 14, 15). Moral certitude in such matters is all we can hope for.

Lagrange holds that our spirit of the present verse is not the same as the spirit spoken of in the second part of the preceding verse, but is rather a more complete gift of God, coming from an outpouring of love from the Holy Ghost, who dwells in our souls and is the principle of our good actions.

That we are (οτι εσμεν) refers to the Christians who are the sons of God. The term τεκνα here is used in the same sense as υἱόἱ. Both can be translated as “sons” or “children.”

17. And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God, and joint-heirs with
Christ : yet so, if we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.

St. Paul now alludes to the Roman law which recognized the same rights to inheritance in adopted sons as in natural ones (Gal 4:1 ff.); and he concludes that since we are the adopted children of God, we shall be heirs together with Christ of God’s life and glory (Rom 8:13, Rom 8:18). It is by reason of our union with Christ that we have a right to share in the eternal goods which are His by nature. But we shall be glorified with Christ only on condition that here below we suffer in union with Him. As He only through humiliation, sufferings and death entered into His glory; so we also must bear our sufferings and crosses in union with Him, in a disposition akin to His, if we wish to have part in His life and glory hereafter.

Yet so. The conjunction  ειπερ may be translated, as in the Vulgate, by si tamen; or by si quidem, as many moderns prefer. The sense is nearly the same, except for the meaning which  ινα (“that”) receives in these two interpretations. According to the first, suffering with Christ in order to be glorified with Him is a matter of free choice; but if we choose so to suffer, it is with the intention (eo fine ut) that we shall be glorified with Him. According to the second interpretation, suffering with Christ is looked upon more as a fact of our present existence, the natural outcome of which is that we shall be glorified with Christ hereafter. This latter interpretation establishes a natural connection between suffering with Christ and reigning with Him, without this expressed intention on our part, which the former interpretation does not seem to recognize.

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