NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XVII)
Reformed theologian Robert Haldane writes that in this verse he sees a triple opposition. First, body to the soul; second, death to life; and third, sin to righteousness. Paul wanted to do away with any objection to what he was saying, especially since he declared that those who are in Christ Jesus are under no condemnation. So this raises a question: Are we, who are in Christ, still subject to sin and death like sinners? Paul gives a quick answer: If the Spirit of Christ has made you alive, even though your body is subject to die because of sin,1 yet your spirit will live on because Christ lives on. So in case some believer is afraid of all that might be done to bring them to an early death, Paul declares that the temporary sufferings that may come upon all of us, among which is the death of the body through persecution, disease, or old age, they are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will be revealed in us.2 Furthermore, everything that may happen to them will be working for their good.3 Haldane also says that the term “body” in this verse is to be taken in its literal sense. And by Paul’s use of the term “spirit,” he is no doubt referring to the soul.4 That is where our spirit is distinguished from the Holy Spirit.”5
Preacher Charles Spurgeon adds that we must understand that when Paul uses the term “regeneration,” as applied to the body, it is a reference to the resurrection. Even though we are regenerated in spirit, our bodies are still under the old law of death. That’s why we have pain and weaknesses, and eventually, we will die. But the spirit will triumph and never die. That’s because there is a living power within us which will win out over this dying, decaying body. So we rejoice notwithstanding all our afflictions, trials, and depressions because we already know what is going to happen at the end.6
Verse 11: God raised Jesus from death. And if God’s Spirit lives in you, He will also give life to your natural bodies. Yes, God, the one who raised Christ from death will make you alive by having His Spirit live in you.
The Unitarian Universalists7 and Jesus Only8 people may find this verse troubling. Paul’s text and grammar definitely implies the existence of three distinct personalities of divine origin and essence. His reference to the Power which resurrected Jesus as “Him,” unmistakably points to our Father in heaven. His use of “Spirit” of course, is none other than the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Peter had no misgivings about the involvement of the Trinity in securing our redemption and salvation. He told the crowd on the Day of Pentecost: “Jesus is the one God raised from death. We are all witnesses of this. We saw Him. Jesus was lifted up to heaven. Now He is with God, at God’s right side. The Father has given the Holy Spirit to Him, as He promised. So Jesus has now poured out that Spirit.”9
The Apostle Paul also preached the same. He told the Ephesians: “You will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe. It is the same as the mighty power He used to raise Christ from death and put him at His right side in the heavenly places.”10 Paul goes on to say that being at the Father’s right hand gave Christ all power and authority over everything in this world and the world-to-come. And since Christ is head over the church, and the church is filled with His presence and power, it has become the full expression of the One who gave His life to become both the Lamb of God, the LORD of Lords, and the KING of Kings.11
At this point Paul draws a correlation between the power that raised Christ from death and the power that will also raise believers from death because they are in Christ. By illustration, we could point out that when a woman is pregnant, wherever she goes her baby goes. Therefore, being in Christ we will one day be with Him in our heavenly Father’s presence for eternity. As we see in Isaiah, the Jews put their hope in a resurrection.12 And Jesus echoed this same hope in His message to the Jewish people.13
Paul wrote this to the Corinthians: “God will raise our bodies from death with the same power He used to raise the Lord Jesus. Surely you know that you are part of Christ Himself.”14 The key to what Paul is teaching about the resurrection of believers is that it is done by God through Christ, with Christ being the first-fruit of such a resurrection.15 That’s why he goes on to tell the Corinthians: “God raised the Lord Jesus from death, and we know that He will also raise us to join Jesus in His presence.”16 Yet, Paul makes sure that everyone is aware that it is all because Christ, who was raised first, is living in us so we can be raised to eternal life as He was.17
Then Paul revealed his understanding of the resurrection to the Corinthians: “For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.”18 This was also prefigured by Christ’s resurrection, because when He left the tomb in His risen body, even Mary did not recognize Him at first. But it was in that body that He walked through doors and overcame the power of gravity. Paul calls it a “heavenly body.” He tells the Corinthians: “We look forward eagerly to the day when we will have heavenly bodies that we will put on like new clothes.”19
We find that the Jews in their writings often distinguished between “the quickening of the dead” for the wicked and “the resurrection of the dead” for the righteous. Rabbi Pinhas ben Yair explained that “Determination leads to clean living, clean living leads to a clear conscience, a clear conscience leads to self-control [even from those things that are permissible], self-control leads to holiness, holiness leads to humility, humility leads to dread of sin, the dread of sin leads to doing what’s right, doing what’s right leads to all being well with the soul, and all being well with the soul leads to the qualification for resurrection of the dead.”20 This sounds a lot like what Paul said to the Romans about such maturation,21 and similar to what the Apostle James told the scattered Jewish believers.22
Polycarp, one of the earliest church scholars, sees this as a spiritual resurrection, not a physical one. He says that the same One who raised Christ up from the dead will raise us up also, as long as we continue doing His will. To do His will we must conduct our lives using the light of His commandments. We must also love the things that He loved. Furthermore, we must guard ourselves against practicing all those things that are wrong, such as: being envious, being greedy, always gossiping, lying under oath, hurting others after being hurt by them, or criticizing when criticized,23 retaliating after being betrayed, and wishing the worst on others after having the worst wished on us. These must be compensated for by keeping our minds on what the Lord said and did in teaching us how to live.24
Origen sees the term, “If the Spirit of Christ dwells in you,” as absolutely essential in order for any believer to grow and mature. After our bodies become His dwelling place, what He created in the beginning is given back to Him so that He can restore it as His temple. This is a sure way to know if the Spirit of Christ dwells inside or not. Furthermore, Christ is wisdom,25 so if Christ is operating in you, you will have the wisdom to know what is His and how He wants you to utilize it. This is the best evidence that you possess the Spirit of Christ inside. Likewise, Christ is righteousness [doing what’s right];26 therefore, if you have Christ guiding you, everyone will know by your righteous living that the Spirit of Christ is directing your life. Christ also brings peace.27 Therefore, if you have Christ in control of your destiny then you can trace that peace to the Spirit of Christ in you. So it goes with love, with sanctification, and with all that belongs to Christ.28 The one who has these things may be confident of having the Spirit of Christ in them and can hope that their mortal body will be restored to life on account of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in them.29
Reformer Martin Luther agrees with Augustine in that because in the coming day of glorification the body you receive will never die. Augustine did not say that God will quicken our dead mortal bodies, because our new bodies will not only be beyond death, but incapable of death.30 This certainly points to the belief that believers have two bodies, the earthly one that their souls occupy now, and the eternal one their souls will dwell in upon resurrection. Therefore, don’t let this earthly body be the cause for the soul to give up on the hope of the heavenly body being prepared when the day of glorification comes.
John Calvin sees this verse as a confirmation of the previous one in that since by the power of God’s Spirit Christ was raised, and since the Spirit possesses eternal power, He will also exert the same power with regard to us. Calvin also addressed the term “mortal bodies.” He understands Paul meaning that all those things which still remain in us and are subject to death. It was also Paul’s usual practice to give this same term to that which we saw as the vulgar side of us. As Calvin understands it, Paul is not referring to the last resurrection, which will be in a moment and the twinkling of an eye,31 but of the continuing work of the Holy Spirit in us by which He assists us in gradually mortifying the relics of the flesh and maintains in us our celestial life.32 In other words, for Paul our birth-bodies house the sinful nature that must be put to death so that the spiritual nature can come to life. As we grow in the Spirit and the Word of God, that old body is transformed into a temple of the Holy Spirit.
1 Not dead in the physical sense, but dead, or unresponsive, to things spiritual.
2 See Romans 8:18
3 Ibid. 8:28
4 Ibid. 8:16
5 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 341
6 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
7 Unitarians do not believe in the Trinity. They do not hold the Bible—or any other account of human experience—to be either an infallible guide or the exclusive source of truth. Much biblical material is mythical or legendary.
8 Jesus Only movement is also known as United Pentecostals or Oneness Movement. Oneness theology does not recognize the distinct persons of the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It has various forms—some see Jesus Christ as the one God, who sometimes manifests Himself as the Father or the Holy Spirit. Their core doctrine is that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is the Spirit. There is one God who reveals Himself in different “modes.”
9 Acts of the Apostles 2:32-33
10 Ephesians 1:19-20
11 See Hebrews 13:20-21
12 Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:14
13 John 5:28-29
14 1 Corinthians 6:14-15a
15 Ibid. 15:20
16 2 Corinthians 4:14
17 Ephesians 2:6; Philippians 3:21
18 1 Corinthians 15:53
19 2 Corinthians 5:2
20 Mishnah: Third Division, Nashim, Sotah, Ch. 9:15
21 Romans 5:3-5
22 James 1:3-4
23 1 Peter 3:9
24 Polycarp: The Epistle to the Philippians 2
25 See 1 Corinthians 1:24, 30
26 See 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 John 2:1
27 See Isaiah 9:6; John 14:26-27; Ephesians 2:13-17
28 See John 3:16; 1 Corinthians1:30; Ephesians 3:19; Hebrews 10:10
29 Origen: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
30 Martin Luther: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 121
31 1 Corinthians 15:52
32 John Calvin: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.