NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY
Dr. Robert R. Seyda
EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS
CHAPTER EIGHT (Lesson XLIII)
Adam Clarke draws an analogy between today’s believers and Abraham. He said, that if God told Abraham, father of the faithful and a representative of us all with whom the covenant was made, that because he did not withhold his only son Isaac from Him but willingly offered him up, that he would now choose him so that all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of him.1 So we ask, would God now go back on that promise? Absolutely not! Especially since things did not end up for God’s only Son as well as they did for Isaac. He was literally sacrificed to purchase every blessing that the soul of man could need and that the hand of God can provide.2 Although Clarke is not alive to verify my assumption, it would be safe to say that he was not speaking here of material blessings only but spiritual blessings as well.
Robert Haldane talks about two circumstances that might instill distrust in the mind of the believer. First, their current condition and their desire for the worldly things offered to them every day. Among these are those things which are common to all people, and those peculiar to Christians. Secondly, are the things that cover the believer’s hope with a cloud of doubt. These are the sins which remain unconfessed and unforgiven. When many troubles come a believer’s way, they are hard-pressed to believe they are favored by God. They are almost persuaded to exclaim to the angel, as Gideon did: “Pardon me, my lord, but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us?”3 On the other hand, there are some who are prone to give into their sinful tendencies daily, and then cannot figure out if God is working with them or against them?
To both of these questions Paul offers the answer that if God did not spare His own Son from a painful and agonizing death for their delivery, that should make His intentions very clear. The Apostle could not have come up with stronger proof of God’s favor than giving His only Son as a gift for their benefit. He did so to redeem them from all their sins to help lessen their troubles. When looking at the dignity and excellency of Christ, Paul is establishing his point by arguing from the greater to the lesser. In other words, since God was willing to give His best for us as sinners – His Son, why would He then turn around and give us less than what we need for our welfare and safety? That means nothing can be held back in light of what He gave to provide such a great and wonderful salvation for mankind’s soul. By doing so, God offers them a way out of what they might dread either from sin or suffering. Think of this another way: Who would risk their life to save a person from a burning building, and then abandon them on the sidewalk without their burns being treated? God had no intention of doing everything He could to redeem us and then walk off and leave us helpless.4
Albert Barnes joins the discussion by noting that the argument for a Christian’s security is derived from the fact that God showed His unconditional love by giving His only Son to save them. He did not do so just for His Apostles, nor for the rich and famous. But so that the most humble and obscure sinner can become His child. Even for them He endured the severest sting of sin and expressed just as much love as He did for the rich and the great that would be redeemed. Why then should not the lowliest and unnoticeable believer not take consolation from the fact that Christ died for them as a way of expressing the highest form of love possible.5 Barnes goes on to say that the blessings this guaranteed were for both our spiritual and physical welfare. Furthermore, since His first great gift, that of His Son, was a free gift, all other things that we may need will be given in a similar manner. It is not by money, nor by our merit, but it is by the mercy of God. So that from the beginning to the end, it is all the work of grace.
Then Charles Hodge enumerates these freely-given blessings that are included in the gift of Christ. He said that if God loved us sinners so much that He gave His only Son for us, will He not also give us the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to make that gift even more effective? Paul offers this as a reason to be confident in what the believer has received. This should assure the believer that their salvation is secure. Not based upon their own stability and faithfulness, but by reason of an unchanging God’s unchanging love. And what makes it so consistent and unfailing is found in its greatness. Infinite love cannot change. As Paul says here in verse 32, a love which spared not the eternal Son of God, but freely gave Him up for us all, cannot fail its object of affection.6
Charles Spurgeon makes the same point about how these blessings are included in the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. In one of his sermons, he told his congregation to notice the wording. It does not say that He “freely gives us all things,” but “with Him freely gives us all things.” So it is not possible to get all these things with getting Christ. There’s nothing that will come your way without Christ. All the other gifts come wrapped in this one gift – Jesus Christ. God first gave us His Son, and now that we have His Son we have everything that comes with Him. It simply means that we must believe they are ours and by faith accept them as they come.7
In a homily on what Paul concludes here, Karl Barth calls Christ, who has been delivered up for us: “the Spirit, the Truth, and the restless Arm of God.” So it makes sense that if we suffer with Him, we should also be glorified with Him. If we die with Him, we shall also live with Him. If God has delivered Christ and us out of the judgment that threatens everyone, He will also with Him give us all things, and thus secure that all things will work together for our good. All things – freely! Just think for a moment what this means! That should keep us from complaining and be astonished as we look at Him in awe.8
John Stott then makes some salient points by saying that the way Paul phrases his question concerning God’s love and support should banish all doubt from our minds. He simply points to the cross. The God of whom someone might ask the question, “Can I believe that You will give me what I need to be faithful and keep me from sin’s grasp?” will be asked to look at His only Son dying on the cross for their salvation. Paul comes at this from both a negative and positive argument. First, by asking in the negative, “He did not spare His own Son,” a statement which surely echoes God’s word to Abraham: “You … have not withheld your son, your only son.”9 On the other hand, Paul asserts positively, “God freely gave Him up for us all.” The same verb is used in one of the apocryphal gospels where it reads: “They approached Judas and said to him, ‘What are you doing here? Aren’t you Jesus’ disciple?’ Judas answered them as they wished. And he received some money and handed Him over to them.10”11
Octavius Winslow, also known as “The Pilgrim’s Companion,” stood out as one of the foremost evangelical preachers of the 19th Century in England and America. In one of his sermons, he refers to Paul’s statement here and concluded that if any other expression was necessary to deepen our sense of the vastness of His love, we have it here. It tells us Who delivered up Jesus to die. I wasn’t Judas who did it for money; nor Pilate who did it out of fear; nor the Jews who did it out of envy. It was the Father who did it out of love.12 Oh, how true! But Paul’s question begs for another answer, why would anyone whom God has redeemed, called, chosen, sanctified, and empowered by His Spirit, give up Christ and the eternal blessings that freely come with Him for anything temporary this world has to offer for a price? Who could possibly be that vain?
Verse 33: Who would dare bring a charge against God’s chosen people? Certainly not God – He’s the one who made things right with them!
Paul’s three questions in verses 33, 34, & 35, all begin with “Who.” They are asked in the rhetorical sense of requiring no answer because this is an unfeasible challenge, not speculation. If someone else can be found that fits the category described and claim the power defined here, then our faith and trust in Jesus are bogus. To give you a parallel question we might ask “Who can lift the earth off its axis?” As you can imagine, the question will go unanswered. In other words, it is an unfeasible question. Well, that is what the Apostle Paul is asking there. He is more or less challenging anyone to try and find that other “Who,” because he’s convinced that no such person or power exists.
Such exploration of the impossible was not new. Satan tried the same with God when our Heavenly Father challenged him to prove Job’s faith as being false and mere lip service.13 Satan thought he had the solution to God’s puzzle: “‘Skin for skin,’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give anything to save his life. Touch his body with sickness, and he will curse you to your face!’”14 But in the midst of his suffering, Job’s friend Eliphaz had this to say: “You will delight yourself in the Lord and look up to God. You will pray to Him, and He will hear you, and you will be able to fulfill all your vows to Him. Whatever you wish will happen! And the light of heaven will shine upon the road ahead of you. If you are attacked and knocked down, you will know that there is someone who will lift you up again.”15
David certainly knew what it was like to be falsely accused.16 And Isaiah uttered the words that Paul may have had in mind: “No weapon made will prevail against you. In court, you will refute every accusation. The servants of Adonai inherit all this; the reward for their righteousness is from me,” says Adonai.”17 Then, in Zechariah’s vision, he heard this in the conversation between the Angel of the Lord and Satan: “The Lord said to Satan, ‘I reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, I, the Lord, have decided to be merciful to Jerusalem – I rebuke you. I have decreed mercy to Joshua and his nation; they are like a burning stick pulled out of the fire.”18 So it is no surprise that John, in his vision, heard a loud voice announce this: “It has happened at last! God’s salvation and the power and the rule, and the authority of His Christ are finally here; for the Accuser of our brothers has been thrown down from heaven onto earth – he accused them day and night before our God. They defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.”19
1 Genesis 22:16-19
2 Adam Clarke: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., pp. 162-163
3 Judges 6:13
4 Robert Haldane: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 410
5 Albert Barnes: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
6 Charles Hodge: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 446
7 Charles Spurgeon: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
8 Karl Barth: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
9 Genesis 22:16
10 The Gospel of Judas: Translated by Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, and Gregor Wurst in collaboration with François Gaudard, 2006, National Geographic Society
11 John Stott: On Romans, op. cit., loc. cit.
12 Octavius Winslow: The Gift of God’s Son, the Guarantee of All Other Blessings, Romans 8:32
13 Job 1:8-13
14 Ibid. 2:4-5
15 Job 22:26-29
16 Psalm 35:11
17 Isaiah 54:17
18 Zechariah 3:2
19 Revelation 12:10-11