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Commentary on Romans
by Michael Bugg
The Two Laws
Rom 8:1 Therefore, there is no longer any condemnation awaiting those who are in union with the Messiah Yeshua.
Rom 8:2 Why? Because the Torah of the Spirit, which produces this life in union with Messiah Yeshua, has set me free from the "Torah" of sin and death.
i. In contrast to “the Torah of the Spirit” which we are told is the Torah in 7:14.
ii. Lev 18:5 - You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am ADONAI.
The Weakness of the Torah
Rom 8:3 For what the Torah could not do by itself, because it lacked the power to make the old nature cooperate, God did by sending his own Son as a human being with a nature like our own sinful one [but without sin]. God did this in order to deal with sin, and in so doing he executed the punishment against sin in human nature,
Rom 8:4 so that the just requirement of the Torah might be fulfilled in us who do not run our lives according to what our old nature wants but according to what the Spirit wants.
i. The written Torah cannot by itself change a person’s basic nature, the desire to rebel.
1. In fact, it inspires our nature to rebel.
ii. It takes being given a new life by the Breath of God, having the Torah written on our hearts by the power of the Spirit (Jer. 31:31ff, Ezk. 36:26f).
Gal 3:21-24 Does this mean that the legal part of
the Torah stands in opposition to God's promises? Heaven forbid! For if the
legal part of the Torah which God gave had had in itself the power to give life,
then righteousness really would have come by legalistically following such a
Torah. But instead, the Tanakh shuts up everything under sin; so that what had
been promised might be given, on the basis of Yeshua the Messiah's trusting
faithfulness, to those who continue to be trustingly faithful.
1. If God could make men walk righteously before Him simply by giving them His teachings, the Torah would have sufficed.
2. But since it is our nature to rebel against any law at all, the Torah shows us all to be sinful, so that we will instead throw ourselves upon God’s loving grace in Yeshua.
3. “imprisoned in subjection to a system . . . [of] legalism”
a. lit. “kept in custody under the law”
b. Stern (Comm. 552) states that legalism was the particular sin of the Jewish people; the Gentiles, of course, had their own sins that they fell into.
c. However, perhaps we should not see the construction of fences around the Torah as a sin so much as a necessity:
d. Not having a supernatural ability to resist the yetzer ha’ra, a society must continually construct new fences (cf. Avot 1:1) to fill in the “loopholes” that our sinful nature seeks out.
i. Just look at the tangled mess of the American legal system!
ii. It should also be noted that many rabbinic traditions actually attempt to make keeping the Torah easier, not harder, making allowances for living in imperfect circumstances.
e. But a body that is “in Messiah,” partaking of His Spirit, would not need such safeguards, since each member would be expected to seek the good of others instead of loopholes for themselves.
i. Adam was reduced from a reflection of the Divine glory to the condition of “sinful flesh”
ii. Yeshua was born “in the likeness of sinful flesh” and raised back up to the glory of Deity by His obedience to the Father in all things, reversing Adam’s curse.
i. 1Jn 1:6, 3:4-6 - If we claim to have fellowship with him while we are walking in the darkness, we are lying and not living out the truth. . . Everyone who keeps sinning is violating Torah - indeed, sin is violation of Torah. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and that there is no sin in him. So no one who remains united with him continues sinning; everyone who does continue sinning has neither seen him nor known him
Choosing Our Identity
Rom 8:5 For those who identify with their old nature set their minds on the things of the old nature, but those who identify with the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Rom 8:6 Having one's mind controlled by the old nature is death, but having one's mind controlled by the Spirit is life and shalom.
Rom 8:7 For the mind controlled by the old nature is hostile to God, because it does not submit itself to God's Torah - indeed, it cannot.
Rom 8:8 Thus, those who identify with their old nature cannot please God.
Rom 8:9 But you, you do not identify with your old nature but with the Spirit - provided the Spirit of God is living inside you, for anyone who doesn't have the Spirit of the Messiah doesn't belong to him.
Rom 8:10 However, if the Messiah is in you, then, on the one hand, the body is dead because of sin; but, on the other hand, the Spirit is giving life because God considers you righteous.
i. Not yet destroyed,
ii. but held up to shame and contempt, immobilized
i. The subjunctive voice indicates that this is final destruction of our predilection to sin is not a given.
i. This is why so many of our prayers begin, “Blessed are You O L-RD our God, who has sanctified us by His commandments, and has commanded us . . .”
The Promise of Life in the Spirit
Rom 8:11 And if the Spirit of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead is living in you, then the One who raised the Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit living in you.
i. Eph 1:13-14 – Furthermore, you who heard the message of the truth, the Good News offering you deliverance, and put your trust in the Messiah were sealed by him with the promised Ruach HaKodesh, who guarantees our inheritance until we come into possession of it and thus bring him praise commensurate with his glory.
1. “guarantees” = ἀρραβὼν, lit. is our pledge (money) or downpayment
ii. 2Co 1:21-22 - Moreover, it is God who sets both us and you in firm union with the Messiah; he has anointed us, put his seal on us, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee for the future.
I Set Before You Life and Death
Rom 8:12 So then, brothers, we don't owe a thing to our old nature that would require us to live according to our old nature.
Rom 8:13 For if you live according to your old nature, you will certainly die; but if, by the Spirit, you keep putting to death the practices of the body, you will live.
Rom 8:14 All who are led by God's Spirit are God's sons.
Rom 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to bring you back again into fear; on the contrary, you received the Spirit, who makes us sons and by whose power we cry out, "Abba!" (that is, "Dear Father!").
Rom 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our own spirits that we are children of God;
Rom 8:17 and if we are children, then we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Messiah - provided we are suffering with him in order also to be glorified with him.
i. Exo 4:22-23 - Then you are to tell Pharaoh: 'ADONAI says, "Isra'el is my firstborn son. I have told you to let my son go in order to worship me . . .”
ii. Heb 2:14-15 - Therefore, since the children share a common physical nature as human beings, he became like them and shared that same human nature; so that by his death he might render ineffective the one who had power over death (that is, the Adversary) and thus set free those who had been in bondage all their lives because of their fear of death.
1. Like Pharaoh had the power of life and death over the Hebrews and used that power and the fear it engenders to subject them to slavery.
i. By forcing them to become Jewish (circumcise) and give up their own ethnic backgrounds for salvation (Acts 15:1), the Judaizers were essentially doing exactly what Pharaoh had tried prior to the Exodus by slaying the male children: Forced assimilation.
1. Sadly, it would later be the official Church which would take up the mantle of Pharaoh to the Jews during the Middle Ages.
ii. Further, by trying to force the Gentiles to keep a Pharisaic level of Torah and tradition (Acts 15:6)—something even those trying to force the issue of circumcision weren’t doing (Rom. 3:17ff, Gal. 6:13)!—those who didn’t believe in Yeshua were trying to demonstrate their dominance over those who did.
1. This is one reason why Messianic Judaism has to develop its own rabbis and halakhah:
a. Not only is it necessary to be taken seriously by the Jewish community,
b. but we must also assert our freedom to develop halakhah consistent with a New Covenant understanding of the Scriptures.
i. Yeshua, in extremis in Gethsemene, reverts to the Aramaic of His native Galilee over the Hebrew Avi.
i. Neither could we as merely God’s slaves call Him “Abba,” a familiar term—for that, we had to be adopted as children.
1. John 1:12 - But to as many as did receive him, to those who put their trust in his person and power, he gave the right to become children of God . . . Rom 8:29 – that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
i. God is mostly referred to as Melekh haOlam, King of the Universe.
ii. But when we pray the Benedictions of Repentance and Forgiveness, we address Him as Father.
1. “A father has the responsibility of teaching his son the proper way to conduct his life. Yet, even if a son has rebelled against his father and has become estranged from him, when the son repents and seeks forgiveness, his fathers compassion will assert himself.” (Etz Yosef, quoted in the Artscroll Siddur 108)
2. Yeshua Himself refers to this quality in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The Revelation of the Children of God
Rom 8:18 I don't think the sufferings we are going through now are even worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us in the future.
Rom 8:19 The creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed;
Rom 8:20 for the creation was made subject to frustration - not willingly, but because of the one who subjected it. But it was given a reliable hope
Rom 8:21 that it too would be set free from its bondage to decay and would enjoy the freedom accompanying the glory that God's children will have.
Rom 8:22 We know that until now, the whole creation has been groaning as with the pains of childbirth;
Rom 8:23 and not only it, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we continue waiting eagerly to be made sons - that is, to have our whole bodies redeemed and set free.
i. John 16:33 - "I have said these things to you so that, united with me, you may have shalom. In the world, you have tsuris. But be brave! I have conquered the world!"
ii. 1Th 3:4 – [W]e kept telling you in advance that we were about to be persecuted; and indeed it has happened, as you know.
i. Used to refer to the whole human world, not the whole natural world
1. Mark 16:15 - Then he (Yeshua) said to them, "As you go throughout the world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.”
2. Col 1:23 – This is the Good News that has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven; and I, Sha'ul, have become a servant of it.
a. “has been proclaimed” (κηρυχθέντος) is in the aorist tense, not the past
i. That is, the whole human world was subjected to futility – this is referring to the corruption of the “world system” of human relations and government
ii. Nevertheless, this corruption did extend into the natural world as well
1. Gen 3:17-18 - To Adam he said, "Because you listened to what your wife said and ate from the tree about which I gave you the order, 'You are not to eat from it,' the ground is cursed on your account; you will work hard to eat from it as long as you live. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat field plants.”
2. When Man, who was set in dominion over the earth (“Heaven belongs to ADONAI, but the earth he has given to humankind.” Psa 115:16) fell, the natural order was twisted as well. Instead of turning the whole world into a garden, we have turned it into a graveyard.
iii. By “the one who subjected it”—he who rules the world system by fear and death, the Adversary
i. The “birth pains” continue with the Great Tribulation in the next verses
Hope Without Uncertainty
Rom 8:24 It was in this hope that we were saved. But if we see what we hope for, it isn't hope - after all, who hopes for what he already sees?
Rom 8:25 But if we continue hoping for something we don't see, then we still wait eagerly for it, with perseverance.
The Spirit’s Intercession
Rom 8:26 Similarly, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we don't know how to pray the way we should. But the Spirit himself pleads on our behalf with groanings too deep for words;
Rom 8:27 and the one who searches hearts knows exactly what the Spirit is thinking, because his pleadings for God's people accord with God's will.
i. The Spirit gives us aid against our old nature, the yetzer ha’ra
ii. And the Spirit intercedes for us, the subject of this passage
“In my opinion . . . the one [interpretation] that is
most objectionable is the one which declares that the Spirit’s intercession ‘for
us with groanings too deep for words’ refers to praying in tongues. If this
were so we would have to affirm that Jesus never prayed in the Holy Spirit, for
He is never recorded as speaking or praying in tongues. This would also mean
that when one prays with the mind (1 Cor. 14:14-19), that is, with the full use
of his faculties, which is characteristic of all prayers recorded in Scripture,
he is not praying in the Holy Spirit. If not, then he is praying in the flesh.
Such a conclusion would be totally repugnant to most Christians.
ii. Prayer language is not speaking in tongues
1. Speaking in tongues means to speak in a language of human beings, as in Acts 2:6, 10:46 (see notes on Shavuot in The Feasts and the Exodus).
a. Tongues may be spoken aloud if there is an interpreter (1Co 14:27f)
2. What is called a ‘prayer language’ on the other hand, is deeply personal, a gift of hearing the intercession of the Spirit, even if we can’t fully understand it.
a. Since by definition such intercession is “unutterable,” it must not be used in public worship.
The Election of the Individual
Rom 8:28 Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;
Rom 8:29 because those whom he knew in advance, he also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers;
Rom 8:30 and those whom he thus determined in advance, he also called; and those whom he called, he also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom he caused to be considered righteous he also glorified!
i. God is clearly sovereign (Rom 9:11), and orders everything according to His will
ii. However, He also declares that He doesn’t wish the wicked to die but to turn and repent (Ezk 18:32)
iii. So why doesn’t everyone turn and repent?
i. A sovereign can sovereignly choose to give his subjects choices.
1. “R. Hanina said, “Everything is in the hands of heaven except fear of heavenas is said, “And now Israel what does your God ask of you except to fear [the Lord your God...?] (Deu. 10:12).” (b. Berakhot 33b, Megillah 25a)
a. That is, if God asks for us to fear Him, then He has given that choice to give it or not in our hands.
ii. The Sovereign can also choose how much light (revelation) to give:
1. He can pursue the lost lamb (Luke 15:4f),
2. or He can choose to judicially blind those who have chosen to ignore the light He previously gave them, as He did with Pharaoh and later Israel (Isa 6).
i. Nevertheless, God is Eternal
1. He knows our choice before we make it
2. He knows what will influence that choice, if anything
3. He therefore calls His sheep, those who know His voice and respond to His call (John 10:4, 16)
ii. Therefore, He can choose to pursue one person and not another based on His foreknowledge of the results.
God’s Proven Goodness to Us
Rom 8:31 What, then, are we to say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Rom 8:32 He who did not spare even his own Son, but gave him up on behalf of us all - is it possible that, having given us his Son, he would not give us everything else too?
Rom 8:33 So who will bring a charge against God's chosen people? Certainly not God - he is the one who causes them to be considered righteous!
Rom 8:34 Who punishes them? Certainly not the Messiah Yeshua, who died and - more than that - has been raised, is at the right hand of God and is actually pleading on our behalf!
i. “Angel of the LORD” = Yeshua
ii. “garments” = atonement, righteousness, worn at the Wedding Feast (Mat 22:11f, Rev 19:7f)
Grace In Tribulation
Rom 8:35 Who will separate us from the love of the Messiah? Trouble? Hardship? Persecution? Hunger? Poverty? Danger? War?
Rom 8:36 As the Tanakh puts it, "For your sake we are being put to death all day long, we are considered sheep to be slaughtered."
Rom 8:37 No, in all these things we are superconquerors, through the one who has loved us.
Rom 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers, neither what exists nor what is coming,
Rom 8:39 neither powers above nor powers below, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God which comes to us through the Messiah Yeshua, our Lord.
i. The Psalm begins by recounting that Israel did not win the Land by her own might, but rather by God’s providence,
ii. so when she fell away from the Holy One, the adversaries that she wasn’t strong enough to take on in the first place devoured her.
iii. The Psalm is a plea by the faithful remnant who had not turned to idols (vv. 20f) and who had remained true to the Covenant (v. 17), but who nevertheless faced persecution because of the sins of the many (as recounted in the book of Judges).
i. with the legend of the widow whose seven sons died refusing to bow down to Caesar—the story was originally of the seven sons refusing to bow to Antiochus Epimanes—and
ii. with the tale of four hundred young people carried off as slaves to Rome who dived into the sea and drowned rather than be used for shameful purposes.
iii. In both cases, the suffering of the righteous was caused by the sin of others.
i. He knows prophetically that the Temple will soon be destroyed,
ii. so he tries to prepare his audience once again to prepare to suffer for the sake of the Name because of the actions of the wicked.
iii. Sadly, it didn’t take: When the Roman Empire persecuted the Jews, the Church sought to distance itself from them:
1. Forsaking the ceremonial portions of the Torah, starting in the time of Ignatius
2. Petitioning Emperor Nerva to be considered a separate religion in c. 96 ce
3. “A survey of Christian literature of the second century bears out that by the time of Hadrian most Christians assumed an attitude of reconciliation towards the empire but toward the Jews they adopted a policy of radical differentiation.” (Koch, Sect 132)
iv. Nevertheless, trying to foster brotherhood and a proper understanding of the Jewish people’s role in God’s plan is the subject of his next several chapters. It is a shame that the Church, taking those passages out of context, has virtually reversed their meaning.
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