WORKS OF ARMINIUS - THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE SEVENTH AND THE EIGHTH CHAPTERS
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IV. THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE SEVENTH AND THE EIGHTH CHAPTERS
1. The truth of the interpretation of the seventh chapter, as it has been so far deduced by the author, is proved from some of the early verses of the eighth chapter when compared with those which precede them. 2. The first verse. 3. The second verse, and an explanation of the phrases used in it. 4. The third verse. A comparison of the former part of it with Romans vii, 5 and 14, and of the latter part of it with the sixth verse of the same chapter. 5. The fourth verse, and a comparison of it with Romans vii, 4. A paraphrastical recapitulation of those things which are taught in the first four verses of the eighth chapter, and their connection with the preceding chapter.
1. But I may now be permitted to confirm this my interpretation from some of the first of the verses of the next chapter, provided they be diligently compared with those in the seventh chapter.
2. For, in the first verse, a conclusion is inferred from verses of the preceding chapter, which is agreeable and accommodated to the principal design proposed by the apostle through the whole of this epistle. The words are these: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
That this verse contains a conclusion, is evident from the illative particle "therefore," and indeed a conclusion not deduced from the former part of the last verse in the seventh chapter, but from the entire investigation, which consists of these two parts: "Men do not obtain righteousness, and power to conquer sin and to live in a holy manner, by means either of the law of nature or that of Moses; but, through the faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ, those very blessings are gratuitously bestowed on them who work not, but believe on Christ." But these two things, JUSTIFICATION which consists of remission of sins, and The Spirit of Holiness by which believers are enabled to overcome sin and to live in a holy manner, are parts of the gracious covenant into which God has entered with us in Christ: "I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts, &c.; for I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." (Heb. viii, 10,12.) Therefore, when the apostle had proceeded so far with the proof of this thesis, (having in the first five chapters treated on righteousness and remission of sins, and in the sixth and seventh chapters, on the power to conquer sin and live in a holy manner,) he now infers this conclusion: "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
The emphasis of the conclusion lies in these words: "Who are in Christ Jesus, who walk, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit," to the exclusion of those who are under the law, and for whom is prepared certain condemnation, as being persons out of Christ, and subjected to the dominion of sin -- as if the apostle had said, "From all these things, therefore, it is apparent that condemnation impends over all those who are under the law, because they neither perform the law, nor are able to perform it; but that freedom from condemnation granted only to those who are in Christ, and who walk according to the Spirit."
(1.) From the fact, that this very part is repeated. though in other words, which are these, "who walk after the Spirit."
(3.) From the subject, itself, of the apostle's investigation, which is this: "The gospel and not the law, is the power of God to salvation to those who believe and do not work." Wherefore, in order that the conclusion may correspond with the proposition, it ought to be read and understood with the opposition here produced.
(4.) From other conclusions in this epistle, inferred in similar cases -- "therefore, we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law," (Rom. iii, 28) also, in the twenty-seventh verse of the same chapter, "Where is boasting then, It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No; but by the law of faith."But it was written for us also, to whom it shall be imputed," that is, to those who "believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." (iv, 24) And it appears that these things are spoken in opposition, to the complete exclusion of another opposite, thus: "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness." (iv, 5.) "For the promise was not made to Abraham through the law, but through the righteousness of faith."
(13.) "Ye are become dead to the law, that ye should be married to Christ." (vii, 4.) As, likewise, in the passage at present under consideration, "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,"
From these remarks, it is apparent that the words after the flesh, but after the Spirit," do not belong to the description either of the subject or of the attribute of the preceding conclusion, as if they were described who are in Christ, but that they are the consequent or the antecedent itself of the same conclusion, though enunciated in a form somewhat different. This is likewise evident from the very words; for the pronoun, toiv "those," which is properly subservient to this matter, is not used in this clause.
3. The same thing is taught in the second verse, in which these two things are united, "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus," that have reference to these two things in the preceding verse, "Those in Christ Jesus," and walking after the Spirit." But let us inspect the verse itself, which reads thus: "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
Before we compare this verse with that which preceded it, we must give a preliminary explanation of the phrases used in it. "The law of the Spirit" is, therefore, called the right, the power, and the force or virtue of the Holy Spirit; for the apostle continues in the mode of speaking which he had previously adopted in the seventh chapter, where he attributes a law to sin, to the mind and to the members, that is, the power and force of commanding and impelling. The Spirit is here called that "of life," that is, "the vivifying Spirit" by a phrase familiar to the Hebrews, who employ the genitive cases of substantives instead of adjectives; as "the city of God,"the man of God,"the God of justice," &c. But the Spirit is thus designated in opposition or distinction to the law of the letter, or the letter of the law, which is weak for the work of vivification, and knows nothing more than to kill -- according to this passage, "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life," (2 Cor. iii, 6) and according to this: "for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." (Gal. iii, 21.)
But this "law of the Spirit of life" is said to be "in Christ Jesus," not because it is only in the person of Christ Jesus, but because it can be obtained in Jesus Christ alone; according to this declaration: "Believers receive the Spirit, not by the works of the law, but by the hearing of faith." (Gal. iii, 2,5.) This phrase, "in Christ," is very often used in the same manner in the apostolical writings. But that the phrase is to be received in this sense also in the present passage, is manifest,
(1.) From the scope or design of the apostle, which is to teach, that not through the law, but through the grace of Christ, believers obtain righteousness and the Holy Spirit, by whose power they may be enabled to have dominion over sin, and to yield their members instruments of righteousness unto God.
(2.) From comparing this passage with the first verse. For, "to those who are in Christ Jesus," is attributed freedom from condemnation, because "the vivifying Spirit in Christ Jesus has made them free from the law of sin and death."
But to this "Spirit of life" is attributed that "it makes those who are in Christ Jesus free from the law of sin and death;" that is, from the power and tyranny of sin reigning, and killing by means of the law. This deliverance or emancipation is opposed to "the captivity unto the law of sin," of which mention is made in Romans vii, 23, and to "the body of death" which is mentioned in verse the twenty-fourth. From this "law of sin," and from this "body of death," a man who is under the law could be delivered neither through the law of Moses, nor through "the law of the mind" which "consents to the law of God." But from this is also most admirably proved the conclusion deduced in the first verse from those which preceded it [in the seventh chapter]. For "deliverance from the law of sin and death" is opposed to "condemnation;" and, therefore, when the former of those is laid down, the latter is removed.
This deliverance is attributed "to those who are in Christ Jesus," and "who walk according to the Spirit," from which it follows, that they are made free from condemnation. But the reason why this deliverance is attributed to that subject, arises from the cause of deliverance, that is, the vivifying Spirit, which Spirit, as it exists in Christ and is to be obtained in him, is likewise in "those who are in Christ Jesus." Wherefore, it is not at all wonderful, that this Spirit exercises his own proper force and efficacy in those persons in whom he dwells; and since this force or virtue is so peculiar to him, that he has it not in common with the law of Moses, it follows from this, that those only "who are in Christ Jesus" and are partakers of his Spirit, or that those who, being in Christ Jesus, are partakers of his Spirit, are delivered from condemnation, while those who are under the law remain under condemnation, as being those who are overcome by "the law of the members," and have been "brought into captivity under the law of sin," no successful resistance being offered by "the law of the mind," which "consents to the law of God."
We have already said that, from a comparison of this verse with the twenty-third verse of the preceding chapter, an unanswerable argument is deducible in proof -- that, in the two verses now specified, the apostle is not treating about the same man; but that, in the twenty-third verse of the seventh chapter, he treats about a man who is under the law, and in this second verse, about one who is under grace; because the man described in the former of these verses is "brought into captivity under the law of sin and death," and this by "the law of the members,"the law of the mind" offering fruitless resistance; but the man who is mentioned in the second verse, by the power of the life-giving Spirit, whom he has obtained in Christ Jesus, is "made free from the same law of sin and death."
4. Let us consider the third verse, in which the same thing may appear still more plainly to us; for in it the cause is explained why men who are under the law, cannot be made free from the dominion and condemnation of sin; but it is shown that this is obtained for them and effected by Christ. But the cause is this, because deliverance from the law of sin and death, or freedom from condemnation, could not be obtained except by the condemnation of sin, that is, except sin had been previously despoiled of the [assumed] right which it possessed, and of its power which it exercised over men who were subject to it. But it possessed the right and power of exercising dominion and of killing. But sin could not be despoiled of its right, and deprived of its power, by the law; for the law was rendered "weak, through the flesh," for the performance of such an arduous service. When God saw this state of things, and was unwilling the unhappy race of men should be perpetually detained under the tyranny and condemnation of sin, "he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and indeed for sin," that is, for destroying it, and he condemned sin in the flesh of his Son, who bore sin in his own body [on the tree] and took away from it that authority over us which it possessed, and weakened its powers.
From these remarks it appears that this passage, which has hitherto been accounted one of great difficulty, is plain and perspicuous, provided each part of it be arranged aright, in the following manner: "For God, having sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; which was a thing impossible to the law, because it was weakened through the flesh." For "that which the law could not do" is, "the condemnation of sin in the flesh?'
Hence it is manifest, that this verse briefly explains the whole cause why sin reigns unto death over men who are under the law, and why it possesses neither the authority nor the power of reigning over "those who are in Christ Jesus" and under grace. This may be briefly shown from a comparison of those things which had been previously said, with this verse. For these words, "what was impossible to the law because it was weakened by the flesh," agree with the following declaration, contained in the fifth verse of the preceding chapter: "When we were in the flesh, the motions of sing, which are by the law, did work in our members;" and with these words in the fourteenth verse, "We know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal;" they also agree with the eighteenth verse, "I know that in me, [that is, in my flesh,] dwelleth no good thing."
But these words, "God, in the flesh of his Son, condemned sin," agree with what is said in the sixth verse, of the preceding chapter: "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held;" that is, sin being condemned which held us bound and in subjection to it. But, in this passage, the cause is more fully explained, that in the flesh of Christ such condemnation was effected.
5. From these observations is deduced the meaning of the fourth verse, plainly agreeing with those which preceded. It is this, after it had come to pass, that sin was condemned in the flesh of the Son of God, the right or authority of the law was completed and consummated in those who are in Christ Jesus, and who walk after the Spirit; so that they are no longer under the guidance and government of the law, but under the guidance of Him who has delivered us from sin, and who has claimed us for his own people.
This is plainly expressed by the apostle, in the fourth verse of the preceding chapter, in these words: "Ye also are become dead to the law in the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
For these phrases agree with each other: "Ye are become dead to the law," and, "the right or authority of the law is fulfilled or completed in you." And, "in the body of Christ ye are become dead to the law," is the same as, "sin was condemned in the flesh of Christ, that the right or authority of the law might be fulfilled in us." But when the right of the law is completed and consummated by the condemnation of sin which was effected in the flesh of Christ, we belong or are married to another, that is, the right is transferred from the law to Christ, that we may be no longer under the law, but under Christ, and may live under grace and the guidance of his Spirit.
For these words, "that the right or authority of the law might or may be fulfilled in us," must not be understood as if, when sin had been condemned in the flesh of Christ, the right or authority of the law was still to be completed; but that after the condemnation of sin in the flesh of Christ, the right of the law was actually fulfilled. Several forms of speech, similar to this, are used in this manner in the Scriptures. For instance: "All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet: (Matt. i, 22) "He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." (ii, 23.) "He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nepthalim, &c., light is sprung up to them who sat in the region and shadow of death." (iv, 13-16.) "He cast out the spirits With His word, and healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities," &c. (viii, 16,17.) See also Matt. xii, 17; xiii, 35; xxvi, 56. In all these examples, the phrase, "that it might be fulfilled," evidently means that the prediction was actually fulfilled by those acts which are mentioned in the several passages. This is also signified by a phrase different from the preceding, in Matt. xxvii, 9, "Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet." It is lawful also to change the mode of speech in this verse, (Rom. viii, 4,) into another exactly of the same import: "Then was fulfilled the right or authority of the law in us." In addition to these, consult Matt. xxvii, 35; Luke xxi, 22; John xiii, 18; xvii, 12; xviii, 9; and innumerable other passages.
From this explication it is apparent, that this portion of holy writ, (Rom. viii, 1-4,) is plain and perspicuous, though, without this interpretation, it is encompassed with much obscurity, as almost all interpreters have confessed, while they have laboured hard to explain it.
We will now, by permission, compress all these remarks into a small compass, and briefly recapitulate them; what I have advanced will then become far more evident. Let us do this in the following manner:
"Since, therefore, we have already seen, that men under the law are held captive under the dominion and tyranny of sin, we may easily conclude from this, that those only who are in Christ Jesus, and who walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh, are free from all condemnation; because the law, the right, the power, the force or virtue of the vivifying Spirit, which is and can be obtained in Jesus Christ alone, has liberated persons of this description from the law, the power and this force of sin and death, from the empire and dominion of sin, and of its condemnation. Christ Jesus could lawfully do this by his Spirit, as being the person in whose flesh sin was condemned, that it has no longer any right, neither can have any, over those who are Christ's; in which flesh, indeed, He was sent by his Father, because this very thing was impossible to the law, weakened as it was through the flesh. And thus it has come to pass, that the right of the law, which it had over us when we were still under the law, is completed or fulfilled in persons of this description, who have become Christ's people through faith, that they might hereafter live, be influenced, and governed by his grace and according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. From these things we may certainly conclude that sin cannot have dominion over them, and therefore, that they are able to yield their members instruments of righteousness to God, as those who have been translated from the death of sin to the life of the Spirit."
But these topics the apostle pursues as far as the sixteenth verse of this eighth chapter, in a manner accommodated to the same scope or design as we have hitherto pointed out; and he seems always mindful of the exhortation which he had given in Romans vi, 12,13; from the conjoint reason in which he descends into the succeeding long investigation.
These observations, however, may suffice, lest we be too operose in demonstrating a matter that is so plain and perspicuous.