The future glory. 8:18-25
In Chapter 8, Paul the apostle teaches that those who are justified on the basis of Christ's faithfulness, appropriated through faith, even though they are plagued by sin and by the troubles of this world, are nevertheless secure "in Christ". All those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit are shaped toward the eternal glory that is theirs in Christ; nothing can separate us from the love of God. In the passage before us, the "hope" of a Christian is the dominant idea. This hope is a "glory that will be revealed in us", v18. It involves the revealing of the sons of God, v19, the liberation of creation, v21, our "adoption as sons and the redemption of our bodies", v23. As we exist within the imperfections and limitations of the present moment, the indwelling Spirit is a "firstfruits" of this future "hope", v23.
v18. This verse begins a section in chapter 8 that deals with three groans. The first groan, verses 18-21, is the groan of God's creation. The creation groans as it awaits the day when the sons of God begin their rule with Christ. In v18 Paul expands the idea of suffering touched on in v17, by noting that the present sufferings of God's people can in no way compare with the wonders that we are destined to experience in the day of Christ's return.
v19. Just as believers await the day of liberation, so does the creation. It is hard to imagine that the powers of darkness are on tiptoe waiting for the dawning of the new age, so Paul is probably telling us that the whole of the natural order is leaning toward the day of Christ's reign with the "saints of the Most High."
v20-21. At present, the totality of God's creation is devastated, it is divided and broken, frustrated and groaning, and this because God created humanity (an integral part of the environment) with freewill, a freewill that led to rebellion. The devastation of the natural order was part of the collateral damage caused by our rebellion. The "one who subjected" the creation is best understood as God, rather than Satan or Adam. "The glorious freedom of the children of God" is the ultimate consequence of this subjection, and somehow it will include the animal and vegetable kingdoms. Their eternal purpose will be fulfilled in that glorious day.
v22. In the remaining verses of our passage for study, Paul speaks about the groaning of the children of God. The natural order strains toward eternity, but so do believers. In verse 22, Paul restates the idea that the whole creation is in travail awaiting its redemption. Childbirth is an appropriate image of this straining, since the outcome is glorious.
v23. In similar fashion, believers groan. Believers inwardly struggle toward the realization of sonship, of ultimate unity with God in Christ. We groan, even though "we have received in the Spirit a foretaste of what the new life will be like." The gentle touch of the indwelling Spirit of Jesus is like a down-payment of the glory to come. So, the Spirit "assures" us that we belong to God. Although we are already "sons of God", we look to the public proclaiming of this fact made evident in the resurrection of our bodies from the grave.
v24. It is resurrection-hope that saves us. We have put our trust in the risen Christ as the one who will raise us to life in the last day, who will gain acceptance for us in the sight of God and so assure our place in the eternal realms. The phrase "in this hope we were saved", is best translated "we are saved by hope." Our salvation is a present fact based on our reliance upon a past event and a future promise. This future promise is the hope we look toward. The second part of the verse is a little confusing, but is made clear by Phillips who writes: "Let us remember that hope always means waiting for something that we do not yet possess."
v25. For the present, we look forward to eternity, and we groan as we await that day. Given that our hope is still future, the only proper response is to wait with perseverance for its realization.
Subjected to frustration
When we see a tree struggling to survive, leaning toward the sun, gnarled and weathered, it is possible for the eyes of faith to see nature leaning toward its redemption.
It is true of our present experience that we can easily be overwhelmed by the frustrations of this imperfect moment. Struggling with indwelling sin and the sense of our separation from Christ, is part of a disciple's lot as we yearn for the dawning of the new age, for peace and joy. It may help us in our frustration if we realize that the whole of the created order, the whole of the cosmos, is caught up in the devastation wrought by human rebellion and so groans, as we groan, for release, for freedom.
For the present, we hope for the dawning of eternity and we taste it in the gentle renewal of our beings through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Yet, in this present moment we are bound by the imperfection of this age. Perseverance must be our rule. It is God's will that we be "conformed to the likeness of his Son," and through his indwelling Spirit interacting with the troubles of life, be daily transformed into the image of Christ. We must be patient as we are daily shaped, never losing sight of the glory to come. We must fix our eyes upon it, such that the "now" is transformed by the "not yet."
1. List some of the ways the cosmos is "subjected to frustration."
2. List some of the "firstfruits of the Spirit."
3. Detail some of the frustrations (inward groanings) associated with the Christian life.
4. Detail the Biblical truths from this passage that may encourage perseverance in the face of the frustrations of life.
Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons