The Spirit Guarantees our Future Glory – Romans 8:18-27
Pastor Mark Hardy December 9, 2012
In the Introduction of his book, Inside Out, I agree with Larry Crabb when he writes that much of “Modern Christianity, in dramatic reversal of its biblical form, promises to relieve the pain of living in a fallen world. The message, whether it’s from fundamentalists requiring us to live by a favored set of rules or from charismatics urging deeper surrender to the Spirit’s power, is too often the same: The promise of bliss is for NOW! Complete satisfaction can be ours this side of heaven. . . Life may have its rough spots, but the reality of Christ’s presence and blessing can so thrill our soul that pain is virtually unfelt. . . .[But] beneath the surface of everyone’s life, especially the more mature, is an ache that will not go away. It can be ignored, disguised, mislabeled, or submerged by a torrent of activity, but it will not disappear. And for good reason. We were designed to enjoy a better world than this. And until that better world comes along, we will groan for what we do not have.” It is this experience of groaning that we will be looking at in our passage this morning.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 8, last time in v. 17b Paul introduced the twin themes of suffering and glorification when he said, “…if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” We saw that suffering is the God-ordained path to future glorification. Paul now goes on to develop these two themes. Turn in your Bible to Romans 8.
In Romans 8:18-27 we see four perspectives from which present suffering and the believer’s future glory are viewed.
The first perspective is from:
I. The Apostle Paul Himself
A. Look at v. 18: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
1. The word “For” (gar) explains how the suffering and glory attributed to believers in v. 17b stand in relation to each other.
2. When Paul says “I consider” (logidzomai) he is talking about reaching a calculated and settled conclusion by careful study and reasoning. Having thought this over carefully and weighing the evidence, this is his Spirit-inspired authoritative conclusion on the role of suffering.
3. It is this: “…that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This is very similar to what he said in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”
4. Paul’s perspective is that his future glory as a believer will be so spectacular and blissful that his present sufferings were “not worthy to be compared” with it. It would be like putting a feather on one side of a scale and ten tons of boulders on the other. There’s no comparison whatsoever!
5. Now the “sufferings of this present time” encompass the whole gamut of human suffering, which include such things as illness, bereavement, hunger, financial reverses, persecution, and even death itself. Paul personally experienced all of these things and more!
6. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 he describes a number of these sufferings, “…in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?” (2 Cor. 4:7-11; 6:4-5)
7. In 12:7-8 he tells us about his “…thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!” And then at the end Paul was beheaded by the order of the wicked Roman emperor Nero.
8. But suffering for Paul was not something to be feared or avoided at all costs. He knew that suffering is the God-ordained path to future glorification.
9. Therefore, his focus was on the incomparable “…glory that is to be revealed to us.” He looked forward to this future eternal “glory,” which was the resurrection of his body (v. 23) and his complete Christlikeness when Christ returns.
10. For Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” This was Paul’s perspective, and it should be ours as well!
11. The second perspective is from:
II. The Creation God Cursed
A. Look at v. 19: For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
1. When Paul says “creation” (ktiseos) here he is referring to the entire nonhuman creation, which includes the animate animals, birds, plants, and all inanimate things such as the mountains, rivers, plains, seas, and heavenly bodies.
2. The one Greek word translated “anxious longing” (apokaradokia) depicts someone standing on tiptoes, stretching the neck, and craning forward in eager anticipation to see. Here all of creation is personified as anxiously longing in this way as it “…waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”
3. The Greek term translated “waits eagerly” (apekdechetai) is used seven times in the New Testament, each time referring to Christ’s return (Rom. 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Cor. 1:7; Gal. 5:5; Phil. 3:20; Heb. 9:28). With great expectancy the whole creation awaits the “revealing (literally, the uncovering or unveiling) of the sons of God” at Christ’s return when they will share His glory.
B. The reason all creation waits eagerly is seen in v. 20: For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope.
1. The word “futility” (mataioteti) means “vanity, emptiness, and purposelessness. It refers to the inability to reach a goal or achieve results.
2. Notice that creation’s subjection to futility was not of its own choice, it was “not willingly,” but was imposed by God—“because of Him who subjected it.” The physical universe involuntarily shares in the curse which fell on man for his sin.
3. We see this in Genesis 3:17-19: Then to Adam [God] said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it;’ Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; by the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
4. Adam’s sin had a cataclysmic effect on the whole creation. God cursed the creation as a part of His judgment on Adam for sin because of his position and authority over the creation as God’s vice-regent.
5. Therefore, He who originally put the creation under man’s dominion has now put the creation under bondage to the effects of his sin. But this futility was never designed to last forever, for Paul says “the creation was subjected to futility. . . .in hope.”
6. C.E.B. Cranfield rightly states, “The creation was not subjected to frustration without any hope: the divine judgment included the promise of a better future, when at last the judgment would be lifted. Paul possibly had in mind the promise in Genesis 3:15 that the woman’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head. Hope for the creation was included within the hope for man.” (pg. 414)
7. The fate of creation is bound up with our fate as believers. It is a partaker of our glory in the future.
8. This is exactly what we see in v. 21: that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
9. Now the creations “slavery to corruption” entails all of the decay and death that presently pervades the natural creation. Even though the natural world retains much of its beauty and grandeur after the curse, this fallen, sinful world is still a very violent and dangerous place.
10. This is not heaven! This reality can be observed, for example, in the violence of the animal food chain. As well as in the various horrific “acts of nature,” which include such things as: flash floods, lightning strikes, tornadoes, hurricanes, avalanches, earthquakes, droughts, volcanoes, and disease that stalk the earth.
11. But one day creation itself will share in the “…freedom of the glory of the children of God.” This will take place in two stages: First, when Christ returns to earth and establishes His Millennial Kingdom He will renovate the earth.
12. He will restore the earth to a place of beauty and the animal kingdom will live in peace with itself and with man (Isa. 11:6-9; 35:1-2, 5-7; 65:20, 25).
13. Second, as the Millennial Kingdom merges into the eternal state the Lord will destroy the first heaven and earth with fire (2 Pet. 3:10, 12; Rev. 21:1) and create a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1). Revelation 22:3 declares, “There will no longer be any curse…”
14. No wonder that Isaac Watts included this verse in his hymn Joy to the World: “No more let sins and sorrows grow, nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found.”
15. Paul then states what is common knowledge about the present creation in v. 22 when he says: For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
16. Since the time of the curse to the present time, every part of creation is continually groaning and suffering labor pains together. But its “pains of childbirth” are not death pains but life pains.
17. For as we saw, one day they are going to cease and the same God who subjected the creation to futility and slavery to corruption will also deliver it and make it once again into a glorious creation.
18. The third perspective is from:
III. Every Christian awaiting Redemption
A. Look at v. 23: And not only this (i.e. not only is creation groaning), but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
1. Although we as believers presently possess wonderful spiritual blessings, because we are out of the garden and not yet in heaven we too “groan within ourselves.” Notice that Paul defines believers here as those “…having the first fruits of the Spirit.”
2. The “first fruits” (aparchen) refers to the Jewish custom of bringing the first of the harvest to the temple and offering it to God (Ex. 23:19; Lev. 23:10; Neh. 10:35). This first installment was a foretaste and pledge that more harvest was to come.
3. The indwelling Spirit that is given to every believer at the moment of salvation is God’s “first fruits” or first installment of salvation and His pledge or down payment that guarantees our future glory, the consummation of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Eph. 1:14).
4. Although everyone living in this fallen, sinful world “groans” in some way, we as believers who have the indwelling Spirit are spiritually sensitized to the corruption of sin that is both in us and all around us. Paul says, “…even we ourselves groan within ourselves.”
5. The word “groan” (stenazomen) refers to an inward, unexpressed feeling of sorrow and grief. Douglas Moo states, “By saying that Christians ‘groan in themselves,’ Paul suggests that these groans are not verbal utterances but inward, nonverbal ‘sighs,’ indicative of a certain attitude. This attitude does not involve anxiety about whether we will finally experience the deliverance God has promised—for Paul allows no doubts on that score (vv. 28-30)—but frustration at the remaining moral and physical infirmities that are inevitably a part of this period between justification and glorification (2 Cor. 5:2, 4) and longing for the end of this state of ‘weakness.’” (pg. 5:19)
6. This side of heaven our lives consist of a great deal of groaning. We groan and grieve over our remaining sinfulness and its consequences in our lives and in the lives of those we love.
7. We groan in disappointment, in bereavement, in sorrow, in our physical pain and suffering, and in our limitation. There is truly an ache that will not go away even in the most mature believers.
8. Just as Larry Crabb said, “We were designed to enjoy a better world than this. And until that better world comes along, we will groan for what we do not have.”
9. This is why Paul says that we are “…waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” We saw last time in vv. 14-15 that we already possess the first stage of adoption or sonship by the Spirit at our salvation when we became His children, but our adoption is not yet complete until glorification—the full realization of our inheritance.
10. But at the Rapture of the church the full manifestation of our adoption as sons will be finalized as we are then morally like Christ and physically receive our resurrected, glorified bodies like His (1 Cor. 15:51-55; 2 Cor. 5:1-5; Eph. 4:30: Phil 3:20-21; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). It is then that we will have complete redemption of both our soul and our body.
11. Therefore, although what we have right now is real, it is not the whole. But our foretaste is meant to cause us to wait eagerly for the completion of what God has already begun in us.
B. This is what Christian hope is all about. Look at v. 24: For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?
1. We have already been saved, but our full and final salvation, which is glorification, is still in the future. If it were a totally done deal right now then there would be no need for hope.
2. Therefore, our salvation now is characterized by hope for its future completion. Hope, along with faith and love, is one of the crowning graces of the Christian life (1 Cor. 13:13).
3. Unlike the English word “hope” the New Testament word (elpis) contains no uncertainty; it speaks of something that is certain, but not yet realized. Thus it means “confident expectation.”
4. Notice how hope stands in stark contrast to seeing. The very existence of Christian hope shows that the full extent and the full riches of our salvation have yet to appear.
5. John MacArthur accurately states, “In this life we cannot expect to experience the reality of our glorification but only the hope of it. But since the believer’s hope is based on God’s promise, the completion of his salvation is more certain by far than anything he sees with his eyes.” (pg. 465)
6. Now given the wonder and splendor of our future glory of Christlikeness in soul and body awaiting us, we should with persevering hope wait eagerly for it.
7. This is exactly what Paul tells us to do in v. 25: But if (or “since”) we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
8. The word “perseverance” (hupomones) here also means “patience, endurance, or patient fortitude” (Moo). It is the God-given strength to hold up under a heavy weight and to bear up under intense pressure.
9. Although we all groan inwardly as we deal with the heavy weights and intense pressures from our present sufferings and trials, our response to these is to be one of “perseverance” or patient endurance as they “wait eagerly” for God’s full and final salvation to come.
10. It is only this patient endurance that will keep us dependent on the Spirit and results in our growing through our trials to become more like Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:3-5; Jam. 1:3-4). For without it we will become more concerned about our happiness than our holiness and do whatever we can to eliminate the groaning in our lives.
11. Sad to say, this is how a lot of Christians live their lives. John Piper so aptly said, “If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
12. It is only to the degree that we refuse to try to make this life heaven and entrust our groaning soul to the Lord that we will truly “wait eagerly” for His return and the promise of our future glory.
13. The fourth perspective is from:
IV. The Spirit of God
A. Look at v. 26: In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
1. When Paul says, “In the same way” some say that the Spirit groans for ultimate restoration as creation (v. 22) and believers (v. 23) groan. But the Spirit’s groaning is different.
2. Therefore, Paul probably means just as our hope sustains us in our suffering and groaning, so does the Holy Spirit. The Spirit helps us to persevere until our future glory is fully realized.
3. Paul says, “…the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” The word “helps” (sunantilambanetai) is a rich word that pictures someone helping another carry a heavy load.
4. It is in the present tense, meaning that the Spirit keeps on helping us in our weakness. The word “weakness” (astheneia) here is a general term that refers to all of our physical, emotional, and spiritual inadequacies.
5. In particular, the Spirit helps us in our weakness in prayer. For Paul says, “…we do not know how to pray as we should.”
6. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to, “…draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” But how often are we not confident because we have no idea how to pray in a particular situation.
7. Maybe we are totally confused about what God is doing in our lives or we don’t know what God’s will is or we are ignorant as to what is best for ourselves or for those we are praying.
8. This is why it is a good practice to always pray, “Father, if it be Your will, this is what I pray…” But even at those times that we have no clue how to pray, Paul says, “…the Spirit Himself intercedes (present tense–continually) for us with groanings too deep for words.”
9. In other words, the Spirit continually prays for us in wordless, unspoken groanings. This has nothing to do with praying in tongues or a heavenly prayer language, as some suggest.
10. But notice that although the Spirit’s groanings are wordless, they are not meaningless. For they link the genuine needs of every believer to the ears and resources of God the Father in heaven.
B. Look at v. 27: and He (i.e. God the Father) who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
1. God the Father not only knows our hearts, but He also knows the mind of the Spirit. Each has full knowledge of the other so there is always perfect communication among them.
2. Since the Spirit always intercedes for us “according to the will of God,” the Father always hears, agree with, and answers accordingly. This is the perspective of the indwelling Spirit in our lives.
In closing, isn’t it encouraging knowing that until we reach our future glory God has not left us alone in our suffering and groaning! For each member of the Trinity is available to help us through prayer. We have God the Father who is always ready to hear and answer prayer that is according to His will. We have the God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Advocate in heaven (1 Jn. 2:1) who always lives to make intercession for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). And we have God the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts interceding for us as well.
Beloved, we are not alone in our sufferings! Therefore, don’t think for a moment that prayer doesn’t make any difference in your life or in the lives of others! We have a prayer-answering God, but remember that He always answers according to His will, not ours. This is because in His infinite knowledge and wisdom He knows what is best and what will bring about our greatest good and His highest glory, though we may never understand this side of heaven.