The Letter to the Romans was written for both the Jewish and gentile members of the Christian community in Rome. Its purpose is to explain the theological connection between the Old and the New Testaments. Chapter 8 is appropriate reading during the Season of Pentecost because it attempts to give an understanding of the work of the Holy Ghost in the souls of true Christians. Herein St. Paul instructs us as to the difference between those who lived under the "Old Dispensation," the Jews who lived before the Redemption, and the Jews who, rejecting Christ, continue to live in it, and those who live in the "New Dispensation," Christians who have received the "Spirit of adoption." The contrast which St. Paul draws here is the life of the flesh and the life of the Spirit. In the seventh chapter, he describes the great conflict that we suffer in our fallen nature, even after our Baptism in Christ. The effects of Original Sin are still very much with us. That chapter concludes with these words:
Romans 7:22. "For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man::
He is saying here basically:
"I recognize that spiritually I aspire to keep Godís law which is noble and good."
Romans 7:23. "But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind and captivating me in the law of sin that is in my members."
Here, St. Paul is saying:
"But I have sinful tendencies and uncontrollable appetites within me besides, which bring spiritual death."
Romans 7:24. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
The Church discerns that this means:
"My lower nature is too strong for me; what hope do I have?"
Romans 7:25. "The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with the mind serve the law of God: but with the flesh, the law of sin."
St. Paul here indicates clearly that:
"My deliverance comes from Christ, by Whose Spirit I receive the grace to control fleshly cravings."
The eighth chapter delineates the difference between those who live according to the flesh and those in whom the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Pentecost, abides and reigns. On the one hand are sin and death, on the other, life and hope.
In His discourse to the Apostles in chapters 14 through 17 in St. Johnís Gospel, our blessed Lord marks the difference between those who are of the world, those who are "the world," and those who love Him and keep His commandments, those to whom the Spirit has come and in whom He has made His abode. In this chapter, St. Paul describes forcefully what the life of the flesh is, and makes much of the fact that the individual is defenseless against sin and hopeless in the face of death. Christ, by imparting His Divine Spirit, has lifted His beloved child out of this condition, so that, on the one hand, from slavery to the flesh he enjoys the liberty of the children of God. That is, through justification, which is being free of sin, and empowered by the Spirit abiding in him, the individual on this earth already enjoys a modicum of control and liberty from the deadly grip of his concupiscences. On the other hand, he lives with the hope that in the life after this life he will be completely free and full of joy, such a joy as can be neither imagined nor conceived.
St. Paul suggests that not only does the Christian who lives by the Spirit, anticipate this future life, but there is a certain indescribable "inertia" in inanimate nature which compels it to move toward the time when it also will be free from the trammels of evil, and liberated in grace. This is his way of saying that in all creation, which includes man and all things inferior to him, not excluding the earth, there is a "sense" that the present state of things is not static, and that all things move as one thing toward the end of human history, when the Spirit will assert His dominion completely and the forces of evil will be overcome and banished; and those who are of the Spirit will enjoy the fullness of life.
Romans Chapter 8
The Douay Rheims translation summarizes this chapter with the note: "There is no condemnation to them that, being justified by Christ, walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit."
8:1. "There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh."
These are they who have "entered" the New Testament by faith and Baptism.
Romans 8:2. "For the law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath delivered me from the law of sin and of death."
There is condemnation for those who live "according to the flesh," that is, those who allow themselves to be dominated by their fallen nature, their unbridled passions, the seven capital sins. Christ, our Redeemer, has established a new law, a new order of reality, the supernatural life within the Church. In doing so, He has breathed into us a new spirit, a new life, whereby we live under the power of the Holy Ghost.
Romans 8:3. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending His Own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin, hath condemned sin in the flesh."
In the Incarnation, the Second Person of the Godhead came as one of us, appearing as another man, and, like other men, appeared to be subject to the effects of Original Sin.
Romans 8:4. "That the justification of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the spirit."
Christ, however, brought "justification," freedom from sin, Godís forgiveness for our former condition which was inherited from Adam. We are able to "walk according to the spirit," because our Savior has given His Spirit to us.
Romans 8:5. "For they that are according to the flesh mind the things that are of the flesh: but they that are according to the spirit mind the things that are of the spirit."
The difference between those who are under the dominion of the flesh and those who are ruled by the Holy Ghost is complete and can be ascertained by their manner of life.
Romans 8:6. "For the wisdom of the flesh is death: but the wisdom of the spirit is life and peace."
Those who walk according to the flesh cannot help but live in sin and as the enemies of God. Those who lived (and live) in the Old Testament could be temporarily free of sin, but their usual fate was spiritual death. Those who live in the New Dispensation enjoy a superior wisdom, a higher morality, and an interior peace, the peace of a clear conscience and the friendship of God.
Romans 8: 7-8 "Because the wisdom of the flesh is an enemy to God. For it is not subject to the law of God: neither can it be. And they who are in the flesh cannot please God."
By the "wisdom of the flesh," the Apostle refers to the error by which the Jews were now deceived, by which they imagined themselves in Godís favor.
Romans 8:9 "But you are not in the flesh, but the spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His."
Speaking to the Christians of Rome, he says that they now live by the Holy Ghost. Only thus can any man be of Christ and in Christ.
Romans 8:10. "And if Christ be in you, the body indeed is dead, because of sin: but the spirit liveth, because of justification."
If one truly lives "in Christ," that is, by the power of the Holy Ghost, he is the master of his concupiscences, and free of sin.
Romans 8:11. "And if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you; He that raised up Jesus Christ from the dead shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of His Spirit that dwelleth in you."
The Divine Spirit, Which raised Jesus from the dead, means life, not merely earthly life, but supernatural life, the life of grace in the soul.
Romans 8:12-13. "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live."
In so speaking, St. Paul means that, having received the Spirit of Jesus, one has the choice whether to live "according to the flesh," or to put the flesh to death in oneself. Before Christ came, there was no such choice.
Romans 8:14-15 "For whosoever are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For you have not received the spirit of bondage again in fear: but you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba (Father)."
Life in the Old Testament for the Jews was (and is) a life in bondage to oneís concupiscences, and a fear of Godís eventual condemnation. By Baptism, Christians become the adopted sons of God, so that they have every reason to consider themselves such, and to have the privilege of addressing Him as their Father (just as Jesus does). If they are Godís children, they do not fear His condemnation, but hope in salvation: God will do everything possible to save those whom He loves as He loves His own Son.
Romans 8:16. "For the Spirit Himself giveth testimony to our spirit that we are the sons of God."
The note (Haydock Commentary) to this verse reads:
"The Spirit Himself, etc... By the inward motions of divine love, and the peace of conscience, which the children of God experience, they have a kind of testimony of God's favour; by which they are much strengthened in their hope of their justification and salvation; but yet not so as to pretend to an absolute assurance: which is not usually granted in this mortal life: during which we are taught to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Phil. 2.12. And that he that thinketh himself to stand, must take heed lest he fall. 1 Cor. 10.12. See also, Rom. 11.20, 21, 22."
The reason the note is given is to instruct us against the Lutheran and Protestant error that, once we have received the Spirit of Jesus, our salvation is accomplished. The truth is very much the contrary. It is easy to read about and talk about and write about the conquest which we must wage against our lower nature, but the conquest itself must be hard and unrelenting. The Holy Ghost will assist us with His powerful grace, but only if we make a stern and uncompromising effort to gain perfect mastery over our devilish selves, the very thought of which is hated by the children of this generation, and deplored in contemporary psychology.
Romans 8:17. "And if sons, heirs also; heirs indeed of God and joint heirs with Christ: yet so, if we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified with Him."
Life in the Spirit of Christ gives us freedom from our passions and moral goodness, and therefore freedom from the bondage of Satan. But there is more: now that we are Godís adoptive children, we have the right to claim all that the Father gave His all-holy Son, Who pleased Him perfectly through His life and death of obedience. If we are willing to die to sin by the Spirit, we can hope to share Christís glory in Heaven.
Romans 8:18. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us."
Protestant doctrine has it that merely by believing in Christ we will enjoy the rewards of Christ. Here the Great Apostle alludes to the pain and difficulty which the mortification of the flesh causes true Christians, but the cost is worth it, because the reward is beyond all that we can ever deserve. We should note that He speaks of the glory of Heaven as a superlative vitality and beauty which will be ours.
Romans 8:19. "For the expectation of the creature waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God."
Here our Saint speaks of the created universe as being effected by manís fall, so that, from that time, it also looked forward to its renewal in the Redemption. This renewal is as yet incomplete, so that creation still waits for and anticipates a further renewal, which will come at the end of time.
Romans 8:20. "For the creature was made subject to vanity: not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope."
God ordained that when Adam sinned, not only was manís whole
being thrown into disorder, but all of creation suffered also, suffered a kind of disruption and disfigurement. This profound effect caused creation to need and hope for redemption with man.
Romans 8:21. "Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God."
With the end of human history and the Second Coming of Christ, inanimate creation will "enjoy" a kind of deliverance from "servitude," and enter into a state of liberation. In the Apocalypse, St. John, speaking of the same phenomenon, described a vision of "a new Heaven and a new earth": "I saw a new Heaven and a new earth. For the first Heaven and the first earth was gone: and the sea is now no more" (Apocalypse 21:1).
Romans 8:22. "For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now."
Here the holy writer endows creation with animal capabilities. He uses the image of an animal giving birth. He says that all creation is like a massive animal laboring to give birth to a new and better self.
Romans 8:23. "And not only it, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit: even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of the sons of God, the redemption of our body."
We also, now that we, who have been redeemed by the Spirit of Jesus, long and yearn for the time when we will be raised up and given glorified bodies, which are more suitable to those who have become "Christians," like Christ, Who is now physically glorified.
Romans 8:24-26. "For we are saved by hope. But hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he hope for? But if we hope for that which we see not, we wait for it with patience. Likewise, the Spirit also helpeth our infirmity. For, we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit himself asketh for us with unspeakable groanings,"
Besides the triumph over the flesh, the Spirit, through the teaching of Christ our Redeemer, has given us a thrilling hope. Hope pertains to something to be given in the future. As Christ prayed for us to the Father, so the Spirit within us prays for us and with us.
Romans 8:27. "And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what the Spirit desireth: because he asketh for the saints according to God."
The Spirit of God within us teaches us what to hope for, and what to pray for, as He does all those whom He has sanctified.
Romans 8:28. "And we know that to them that love God all things work together unto good: to such as, according to His purpose, are called to be saints."
These words should be the source of warmest elation and encouragement to us. If we truly love God and live accordingly, no matter how difficult things are, His providence will direct our lives toward the virtue and joy of the saints. And yet that doesn't, for some reason, set well with the modernists.
The Work of the Holy Ghost
Theologians have devised the two alternate "baptisms" because the revealed and defined truth that there is no salvation outside the Church seems too hard and unkind. There is no slightest suggestion in the Scriptures either of "baptism of blood" or of "baptism of desire;" neither is there any place for them in the developed Doctrine of Exclusive Salvation; which is to say: doctrinal consistency peremptorily excludes both ideas.
In theology, as in every other science, every idea must "fit" as something integral and necessary, or it must be rejected. "Substitute baptisms" were contrived because practically everyone within and outside the Church demanded them, (like "invincible ignorance," and other palliatives). People need them rather than carry the mental and emotional burden of so many millions, even billions, being hurled into Hell forever. Also, they do not like the answer to the question: "Do you believe that only Catholics go to Heaven?" (The correct answer is: "And only a few of them.") This sentimental urgency comes from looking at the subject of salvation from a purely human point of view, not from Godís, as He has revealed it to us in Holy Writ. These paragraphs are written to insist that we deal with the holy Doctrine of Exclusive Salvation, not by counting hands for the opinions of theologians, but by tenaciously clinging to the principles of the Faith.
Our fundamental rule must be: Hold fast to defined doctrine and pay no heed to apparent consequences. This is the proper approach because it is what God Himself has taught us. And it is His truths that bind us, without which we are completely without light. And if we are bound, then so is everyone else without exception.
The illuminating truth is that God is infinite. There are no limitations to His knowledge, His power, His love, and His mercy. We are incapable of thinking of huge numbers of human beings, whether they be outside the Church or within it. Our view of everything is woefully narrow, our field of vision in the spiritual order is more limited than our eyesight. In contrast, God is in no way limited. He can and does deal with every individual at the profoundest level of his being.
In the mystery of Pentecost, we are taught that the Ascendant Savior, in union with His eternal Father, sent the Holy Ghost into the world "as of a mighty wind coming" (Acts 2:2). The Third Person of the most Blessed Trinity abides in the Church as its Soul, and, like the wind, "breatheth where he will" (John 3:8)
Within the Church and in the world, the divine Spirit works in the souls of every human being in exactly to the degree that individual allows Him to. The driving motive of this loving Guest is the salvation of every man. Again, God is in no way restricted, so that He can and does attend to every individual to the extent that each yields to His life-giving truth.
If any man sins, lives in sin, relapses into sin, resists divine grace, abandons faith, rises from sin, repents, believes Christ, seeks Baptism, confesses his sins, it is because he either closed his soul to the gentle whisperings of the Spirit, or listened to them. If it seems that few nowadays (many fewer than at other times) submit to the promptings of the Spirit of Jesus, it is nothing more than the fulfillment of the prophecy of St. Paul to Timothy:
"For there shall be a time when they will not endure sounds doctrine but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers having itching ears; and will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).
Our primary duty is not to despair at the moral condition of the world in general, nor the Church in particular, nor at the prevailing faithlessness and depravity around us, but to see to ourselves. To the extent we are what we ought to be, to the extent that we respond to the Holy Ghost, all things in the world are better. It is not our place to assess the condition of our souls in the sight of God, any more than it is within our capacity to determine how much good we are doing for anyone else. Our duty is to be guided by the voice of the Spirit - the "Spirit of Truth" within us.
Our Lord said:
"And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all things to Myself" (John 12:32).
The Force which draws all men to the Heart of Christ is the Holy Ghost. The Power of the cross is the Spirit of Jesus issuing forth from His pierced Side, wondrously enhanced by the flawless purity of the Heart of Mary. In so far as the grace of the sacred humanity of Christ courses through us, and energizes and impels us, the world is less evil, the power of Satan is bridled, and the conversion of souls increases. We do not look to Rome for a "turnaround," we do not put our hope on the next pontificate, we do not scan the horizon for a saint to rescue the Church, to awaken the dazed and sleeping, to launch a great reform. The deliverance of the world and the restoration of the Church begins within our own souls, in true humility, in unshakable faith, in confident prayer, in the love of God, which is the grace of the Spirit. The saint that God looks for to save the world is you.
I wish to thank everyone who continues to pray for me. God has not ignored your prayers. Don't stop now; I will tell you when to stop. I am grateful also to everyone who has sent me words of encouragement, which have sustained me through the months. Thanks also to everyone who has supported me with their hard-earned dollars. May this be a happy Feast for you, and a fresh beginning to your conquest of self.
Yours in Christ,