NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XVIII)
Scottish Bible scholar Robert Haldane lays out an explanation of the Trinity’s involvement in the plan of redemption. He says that our Heavenly Father has provided for our salvation, the Son merits praise for securing it, and the Holy Spirit applies it. This has been established by multiple passages in the Holy Scriptures.1 In our present world, the Father is recognized as the founder of the Church, the Sovereign of the world, the Protector and Enforcer of His laws, and the first Director of the Work of Salvation. The Son now stands as the only Mediator between God and man, and the One who sacrificed everything needed for our redemption as the Lamb of God. The Holy Spirit holds the office of the only source of conviction that draws the sinner to Christ for salvation, the Comforter, the Teacher, and the Sanctifier of the Body of Christ. We should thank no others our salvation or run to someone else in the time of need. It dishonors all that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit did to redeem us from sin. Just think, if God loved us while we were sinners, wouldn’t He love us even more now that we are His?2 Who would thank a news reporter for covering their story of being rescued from drowning, but not thank the person who risked their life to save them?
Haldane then goes on to explain that the first effort to save us can be seen in what the Father did in the beginning. Namely, the plan He formed; the election of His people; His giving them to His Son; in the appointment of the one sacrifice, in the transfer of our sins to the Lamb who suffered, and making sure it worked out according to His will. The second step is seen in what the Son qualified for and effected by coming into the world, by His unwavering obedience, His sure death, and sure resurrection. The third appears in what the Holy Spirit did to making everything work as God planned: joining us to the Savior, producing in us belief, faith, and sanctification, spreading in our hearts the persuasion of our peace with God by our justification, motivating us to persist to the end, and ready to raise us up again, as He will do, at the last day.
Haldane concludes by saying that in God’s realm the Son received the authority and was given His mission from the Father to come into the world. That is why He so often referred to His first advent as being sent by the Father to take upon Himself the office of Prophet,3 Priest,4 King,5 and Head of His Church.6 However, we must keep in mind the differences between these offices in such passages as the following: “My Father is greater than I.”7 “Then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him.”8 Also, “No one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows.”9 Christ was sent to become the Mediator who was able to bring about the revelation of the Kingdom of God after being crucified. This is illustrated by the Son of God coming into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. As far as Haldane is concerned, in neither of these texts is any personal inequality spoken of comparing the Father to the Son or the Son to the Holy Spirit. However, it is accepted that the offices the Son and the Spirit are subordinate to that of the Father, but agree on everything He says and does.10
Albert Barnes follows a similar thought pattern when it comes to Paul’s reference to our natural bodies being given new life. To him, it is apparent that this does not refer to the resurrection of the dead because that is not attributed to the Holy Spirit. As we know, Paul said it is by the “same power” that raised Christ.11 Barnes understands it as referring to the body which is subject to carnal desires and tendencies. It is by nature, namely, Adam’s sin, that sin reigns, and death is the result. This puts the body on the road to the grave. So Paul’s point is that under the power of the Gospel, and by the influence of the Holy Spirit, the entire man will be made alive in the service of God. Barnes notes that even though our mortal bodies became corrupt because it was under the dominion of sin for so long, it can still be recovered and revived for the service of God. This happens when the Spirit of God comes to dwell in us. And because that Spirit has made our souls come alive, He stays with us to exert His purifying influence. Then, because the design and purpose of His indwelling is to sanctify the believer inside and out, their body as a Temple of the Holy Spirit becomes holy ground.12
However, Charles Hodge sees it somewhat differently. For him, this clause cannot, with any regard to usage or the context, be understood as a moral resurrection of the body and deliverance from sin, as explained by Calvin, Barnes, and many others. He points to Paul’s own words: “We know that God, who raised the Lord Jesus, will also raise us with Jesus and present us to Himself together with you.”13 Paul is attempting to show that the life which we receive from Christ that wins the victory over sin will ultimately triumph over death. We all know that our present bodies must die, but they will not continue forever under the power of death. The phrase “to quicken” (KJV) is not to awaken, but to make alive, which suggests more than a mere restoration of life. In Hodge’s mind, this concept is used only for believers. It expresses the idea that the new life created within us by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, names Christ as the founder and perfecter of our faith. Therefore, this new life which we now live in the old body will assuredly conform to the new body we receive on the day of resurrection.14
However, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon has a totally different understanding of what Paul is saying here. His interpretation is that the day is coming when our bodies will experience its own adoption. This is called “the redemption of the body.”15 He does not hear Paul saying that we will be given a new body. As far as Spurgeon was concerned, that is a modern doctrine. He stands by what the Scriptures say about our mortal bodies being revived. So at the resurrection, we will not receive a new body, but a renewed body like the one we had when we died.16 I was unable to find if Spurgeon considered this view in light of what happened to Elijah in the valley of dry bones.17
However, Spurgeon gives a further explanation of this belief in one of his sermons. He preached that resurrection of the dead deals not with the soul, but with the body. He said that the doctrine provides that the actual body we live in at this moment is connected with the soul. The soul is the “vital spark of heavenly flame” that will be the fire in heaven, and the body will be the “container in which the incense of our lives will rise unto the Lord,” and it will burn this way forever. He was concerned that so many in his day denied that our actual, physical bodies will rise up from their graves on the great day of resurrection. Since so many believe that they will have a body in heaven, why do they think it will be a spiritual body instead of believing that it will be a body just like they have now – flesh and blood?
But Spurgeon leaves some room to accommodate the other view by saying that it will not be the same kind of flesh we have here on earth. By that, he meant it would not need to be a solid, physical body such as we have here and now. However, a few lines later in his sermon, Spurgeon declares that if we are the Christians we profess to be, we would believe that every mortal man who ever existed will not only live by the permanency of their soul, but their body will live again; to believe that the very flesh in which they now walk the earth is as eternal as the soul, and will exist forever.18 When we consider that many martyrs were cremated at the stake and their ashes scattered around like dirt and not to be found in one spot, and, those have died in fiery airplane crashes and their ashes were never recovered, will require God to collect all of those in order to regenerate the body as it was before. I’m sure if Spurgeon were alive today he would give us a clear explanation of what he meant to say.
Frédéric Godet weighs in on this debate by saying that once again we see how carefully Paul selects every term that he uses. We see this clearly in the use of the two expressions, “to awaken” (applied to Jesus), and, “to quicken” (applied to believers). Jesus’ death is often referred to as His falling to sleep since there was no decay or disintegration of the body in those three days. Therefore, it is proper to say that He was awakened. In our case, the body is destined for complete destruction. As such, it must be entirely reconstituted. This is well expressed by the word quicken.19 Although Godet is clearly speaking of the future resurrection of the body, it does not make void the other views expressed on how the natural body can be quickened morally to become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit in this world.20
When it comes to the quickening of those asleep in the Lord, John Stott makes the point that this does not mean that our dead bodies will be reanimated or resuscitated so that it returns to its present material existence, only to die again. We should not see resurrection as a transformation of something old into something new. The raising and issuing of a new body such as the one the women saw on the day of Christ’s resurrection and the disciples observed on the day of ascension. It will be a new and glorious entity for our eternal personality, and its liberation from all frailty, disease, pain, decay and death and fit to survive outside this world. Stott warns that it is “not that the spirit is to be freed from the body” – as many, under the influence of the Greek way of thinking, have held. Rather, that “the Spirit will give life to this new glorious body.”21 As we see from the Gospels, Jesus’ resurrected body was able to walk through closed doors and defy gravity to float uninhibited into the sky where it can exist and function in the heavenly stratosphere where the human body would experience instant death.
In my view, we can say that all these great minds were looking at the same event from a different angle. When we are born again and baptized, it is like the old body being buried and coming back to life with a new person inside. This then is repeated in the resurrection. Only this time, the new person gets a new body.
1 See Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 1:35; 10:21; Acts of the Apostles 1:7-8; 5:31-32; 7:55; 10:38; 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:3-6, 7-12, 13-14; 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2
2 Romans 5:8
3 See Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Matthew 21:11, 46; Luke 7:16; John 1:21; 4:19; 6:14; 7:27; 9:17
4 See Romans 5:10, 19; Hebrews 2:17; 4:14-16; 5:6; 6:20; 7:11, 15, 23, 26, 27; 9:12, 14; 10:12
5 Isaiah 9:6; 11:10; Zechariah 6:13; John 12:15; 18:37; Acts of the Apostles 2:30; 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16
6 Psalm 68:18; 118:22; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 1:22; 4:8, 12; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:10
7 John 14:28
8 1 Corinthians 15:28,
9 Mark 13:32
10 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 347-348
11 See verse 11
12 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
13 2 Corinthians 4:14
14 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 402
15 See Romans 8:22-23
16 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
17 Ezekiel 37:1-14
18 Charles H. Spurgeon: The New Park Street Pulpit, A Sermon (No. 66), “The Resurrection of the Dead,” Delivered on Saturday Morning, February 17, 1856, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, England.
19 Frédéric Louis Godet: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
21 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.