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 MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 8:18-27

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 19, 2017

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s analysis of Romans chapter 8, followed by his comments on verses 18-25. 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 8:31–38).

Rom 8:22  For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now.

22. He expresses, in the strongest form, the desire of inanimate nature to be rescued from corruption, by comparing it with the anxious desire, for a happy delivery, of a woman enduring the painful throes of childbirth.

He expresses, in the strongest form, the desire of inanimate nature to be rescued from corruption, by comparing it with the anxious desire, for a happy delivery, of a woman enduring the painful throes of childbirth.

Rom 8:23  And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit: even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body.

23. “But ourselves also,” is referred by some to the Apostle. It more probably, however, has reference to all Christians in the days of the Apostle. “Who have the first fruits of the spirit,” i.e., who have received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, sanctifying grace, faith, hope, &c., and the other gifts which were abundantly conferred in the primitive Church, and which were so many pledges of future glory. “Waiting for the adoption of the sons of God,” i.e., their perfect, consummate adoption, by receiving the glorious inheritance. We have already received the imperfect, incomplete adoption by grace. “The redemption of our body.” This is the perfect state of our adoption in our resurrection and glorification. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—(chap. 7 verse 24).

“But ourselves also,” is referred by some to the Apostle. It more probably, however, has reference to all Christians in the days of the Apostle. “Who have the first fruits of the spirit,” i.e., who have received the gifts of the Holy Ghost, sanctifying grace, faith, hope, &c., and the other gifts which were abundantly conferred in the primitive Church, and which were so many pledges of future glory. “Waiting for the adoption of the sons of God,” i.e., their perfect, consummate adoption, by receiving the glorious inheritance. We have already received the imperfect, incomplete adoption by grace. “The redemption of our body.” This is the perfect state of our adoption in our resurrection and glorification. “Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”—(Rom 7:24).

Rom 8:24  For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for?

We are only in a state of expectancy; for, we have here only obtained the salvation of hope. Now, hope is incompatible with actual fruition; it must cease to be hope when we enter on the fruition of the object hoped for; since, who ever made the things which he enjoys the object of his hope.

The Apostle, in the preceding verse, said, that we are anxiously expecting the glory of the blessed, the liberation of our body from the slavery of corruption. The connexion of this verse with it is, “I said we were expecting,” &c., for, that we are yet only expecting is clear from the fact, that it is only the initial salvation by hope we enjoy here below. Now, hope and fruition are perfectly incompatible; for, hope has reference to future, but not to present good or actual possession. “Hope that is seen,” means hope, the object of which is obtained.

Rom 8:25  But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience.

If, then, we have not the things we are anxiously hoping for, we are only to wait and expect them by patiently enduring the evils of this life.

If hope excludes actual possession of the thing hoped for, we ought to wait with patience for the object which must be at a distance. “Patience,” in the Greek, ῦπομονῆς, means, the patient suffering of evils; it has reference to the words, verse 17, “yet so if we suffer with him.” As we have not yet attained the objects of hope, viz., the inheritance of the sons of God, we must wait to receive them through the patient suffering of the crosses and evils of this life.

Rom 8:26  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,

And not only have we received from the Holy Ghost the many favours referred to, particularly the testimony, that we are sons of God; but the same Spirit helps in sustaining our many infirmities, which are so great, that far from being able to perform good works, we even know not what to pray for, or how to pray, as we ought, and He Himself inspires us to pray with groans, that is to say, with a degree of spiritual fervour and strength, that cannot be fully expressed, or, with a fervour to ourselves inexplicable.

“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth.” This is more probably connected with verse 16, as in Paraphrase. The Holy Ghost “helpeth,” the Greek word, συναντιλαμβανεται, means to lay hold of a weight, on the opposite side, so as to help in carrying it. It implies the free concurrence of man with the aid of the Holy Ghost. “Our infirmity.” (in the common Greek, ἀσθενείαις ἡμῶν, our infirmities. The Vulgate, ἀσθενείᾳ, is supported by the chief MSS.) “For, we know not what we should pray for,” &c. So great is our weakness, that we know not how to pray as we ought, or what to pray for, much less to perform actions, the aid for which must be derived from prayer. The Apostle instances our inability to pray, as one out of the many cases of infirmity under which we labour. “But the Spirit himself,” which evidently refers to the Holy Ghost, “asketh for us, with unspeakable groanings;” “he asketh” by inspiring and making us to ask; and hence he is said “to ask,” because his grace is the principal agent, assisted by our free will, in making us pray “with ineffable groanings,” i.e., with a fervour of spirit which cannot be fully expressed, or, which is even to ourselves unaccountable. The Holy Ghost, then, asks along with us, and through us, by enlightening us, by exciting us as his members, to pray with an ardour and vehemence which we can neither fully express nor account for; hence it is said elsewhere, “non vos estis qui loquimini sed spiritus patris vestri,” &c.—(Matt. 10:20.) “Misit spiritum … clamantem, abba pater.”—(Gal. 4:6).

Rom 8:27  And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth: because he asketh for the saints according to God.

But although these groans which we send forth under the influence of God’s Spirit, be to us inexplicable, still God, the searcher of hearts, attends to them, and approves of them, because the Holy Ghost asks things, and asks them in a manner conformable to the will of God, when supplying the defect in the prayers of his saints.

But though these groans be to us inexplicable, still, God knows and fully approves of them, because they proceed from his Spirit, whose prayers for us, i.e., to supply our deficiency, are always according to God’s will, “because he asketh for the saints,” i.e., in order to supply the deficiency in the prayers of the saints. Others connect the words thus: The Spirit also, as well as the hope of future bliss, sustains us in all our distresses and weakness.

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