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Commentary On Romans by Jean Calvin

Romans 8:5-8

5. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

5. Qui enim secundum carnem sunt, ea quæ carnis sunt cogitant; qui vero secundum Spiritum, ea quæ sunt Spiritus.

6. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

6. Cogitatio certe carnis, mors est; cogitatio autem Spiritus, vita et pax:

7. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

7. Quandoquidem cogitatio carnis, inimicitia est adversus Deum; nam Legi Dei non subjicitur, nec enim potest.

8. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

8. Qui ergo in carne sunt, Deo placere non possunt.

5. For they who are after the flesh, etc. He introduces this difference between the flesh and the Spirit, not only to confirm, by an argument derived from what is of an opposite character, what he has before mentioned, -- that the grace of Christ belongs to none but to those who, having been regenerated by the Spirit, strive after purity; but also to relieve the faithful with a seasonable consolation, lest being conscious of many infirmities, they should despair: for as he had exempted none from the curse, but those who lead a spiritual life, he might seem to cut off from all mortals the hope of salvation; for who in this world can be found adorned with so much angelic purity so as to be wholly freed from the flesh? It was therefore necessary to define what it is to be in the flesh, and to walk after the flesh. At first, indeed, Paul does not define the distinction so very precisely; but yet we shall see as we proceed, that his object is to afford good hope to the faithful, though they are bound to their flesh; only let them not give loose reins to its lusts, but give themselves up to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

By saying that carnal men care for, or think upon, the things of the flesh, he shows that he did not count those as carnal who aspire after celestial righteousness, but those who wholly devote themselves to the world. I have rendered phronousin by a word of larger meaning, cogitant -- think, that readers may understand that those only are excluded from being the children of God who, being given to the allurements of the flesh, apply their minds and study to depraved lusts. Now, in the second clause he encourages the faithful to entertain good hope, provided they find that they are raised up by the Spirit to the meditation of righteousness: for wherever the Spirit reigns, it is an evidence of the saving grace of God; as the grace of God does not exist where the Spirit being extinguished the reign of the flesh prevails. But I will briefly repeat here what I have reminded you of before, -- That to be in the flesh, or, after the flesh, is the same thing as to be without the gift of regeneration: and such are all they who continue, as they commonly say, in pure naturals, (Puris naturalibus.)

6. The minding of the flesh, etc. Erasmus has rendered it |affection,| (affectum;) the old translator, |prudence,| (prudentiam.) But as it is certain that the to phronema of Paul is the same with what Moses calls the imagination (figmentum -- devising) of the heart, (Genesis 6:5;) and that under this word are included all the faculties of the soul -- reason, understanding, and affections, it seems to me that minding (cogitatio -- thinking, imagining, caring) is a more suitable word And though Paul uses the particle gar -- for, yet I doubt not but that is only a simple confirmative, for there is here a kind of concession; for after having briefly defined what it is to be in the flesh, he now subjoins the end that awaits all who are slaves to the flesh. Thus by stating the contrary effect, he proves, that they cannot be partakers of the favor of Christ, who abide in the flesh, for through the whole course of their life they proceed and hasten unto death.

This passage deserves special notice; for we hence learn, that we, while following the course of nature, rush headlong into death; for we, of ourselves, contrive nothing but what ends in ruin. But he immediately adds another clause, to teach us, that if anything in us tends to life, it is what the Spirit produces; for no spark of life proceeds from our flesh.

The minding of the Spirit he calls life, for it is life-giving, or leads to life; and by peace he designates, after the manner of the Hebrews, every kind of happiness; for whatever the Spirit of God works in us tends to our felicity. There is, however, no reason why any one should on this account attribute salvation to works; for though God begins our salvation, and at length completes it by renewing us after his own image; yet the only cause is his good pleasure, whereby he makes us partakers of Christ.

7. Because the minding of the flesh, etc. He subjoins a proof of what he had stated, -- that nothing proceeds from the efforts of our flesh but death, because it contends as an enemy against the will of God. Now the will of God is the rule of righteousness; it hence follows, that whatever is unjust is contrary to it; and what is unjust at the same time brings death. But while God is adverse, and is offended, in vain does any one expect life; for his wrath must be necessarily followed by death, which is the avenging of his wrath. But let us observe here, that the will of man is in all things opposed to the divine will; for, as much as what is crooked differs from what is straight, so much must be the difference between us and God.

For to the law of God, etc. This is an explanation of the former sentence; and it shows how all the thinkings (meditationes) of the flesh carry on war against the will of God; for his will cannot be assailed but where he has revealed it. In the law God shows what pleases him: hence they who wish really to find out how far they agree with God must test all their purposes and practices by this rule. For though nothing is done in this world, except by the secret governing providence of God; yet to say, under this pretext, that nothing is done but what he approves, (nihil nisi eo approbante fieri,) is intolerable blasphemy; and on this subject some fanatics are wrangling at this day. The law has set the difference between right and wrong plainly and distinctly before our eyes, and to seek it in a deep labyrinth, what sottishness is it! The Lord has indeed, as I have said, his hidden counsel, by which he regulates all things as he pleases; but as it is incomprehensible to us, let us know that we are to refrain from too curious an investigation of it. Let this in the mean time remain as a fixed principle, -- that nothing pleases him but righteousness, and also, that no right estimate can be made of our works but by the law, in which he has faithfully testified what he approves and disapproves.

Nor can be. Behold the power of free-will! which the Sophists cannot carry high enough. Doubtless, Paul affirms here, in express words, what they openly detest, -- that it is impossible for us to render our powers subject to the law. They boast that the heart can turn to either side, provide it be aided by the influence of the Spirit, and that a free choice of good or evil is in our power, when the Spirit only brings help; but it is ours to choose or refuse. They also imagine some good emotions, by which we become of ourselves prepared. Paul, on the contrary, declares, that the heart is full of hardness and indomitable contumacy, so that it is never moved naturally to undertake the yoke of God; nor does he speak of this or of that faculty, but speaking indefinitely, he throws into one bundle all the emotions which arise within us. Far, then, from a Christian heart be this heathen philosophy respecting the liberty of the will. Let every one acknowledge himself to be the servant of sin, as he is in reality, that he may be made free, being set at liberty by the grace of Christ: to glory in any other liberty is the highest folly.

8. They then who are in the flesh, etc. It is not without reason that I have rendered the adversative de as an illative: for the Apostle infers from what had been said, that those who give themselves up to be guided by the lusts of the flesh, are all of them abominable before God; and he has thus far confirmed this truth, -- that all who walk not after the Spirit are alienated from Christ, for they are without any spiritual life.

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