The Hope of Future Glory

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Romans 8:18-27

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called The Greatest Chapter in the Bible, and as we work our way through Romans 8 together, I hope that you, too, are seeing that Romans 8 is great!

So far, we have learned that we have been set free from sin by the Spirit of God. We have learned that we must live the Christian life according to the Spirit. And we have learned that we are children of God and heirs of Christ.

These are all wonderful truths about what God has done in us through the Holy Spirit, but we must also deal with the reality of the world around us. And the reality of the world around is that we live in a fallen world where there is hardship and pain.

I think Douglas Moo captures our predicament well with these key questions that are addressed in today’s passage: “How can the Christian maintain hope for eternal life in the face of sufferings and death? How can those who have been set free ‘from the law of sin and death’ die? How can God’s very own, dearly loved children suffer?” (Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 509) Those are very challenging questions, but that is what today’s passage is all about. (Read Romans 8:18-27 and pray.)

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One of the reasons we said that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in the Bible is that it presents in detail the three major doctrines of the Christian life. We learn about justification in verses 1-4, sanctification in verses 5-17, and now we turn to the subject of glorification in verses 18-30.

Justification, sanctification and glorification each present a different aspect of our salvation – past, present and future. Justification deals with the past. The moment you trusted Christ you were saved from the penalty of sin. Sanctification has to do with the present. Right now in this life you are saved from the power of sin. Glorification has to do with the future. One day you will be saved from the very presence of sin.

Another way we can look at this is through the lens of adoption. In justification we are adopted as God’s children. In sanctification we are growing to be more like God’s Son. In glorification we are made like Christ and our adoption is complete.

And so, starting in verse 18 we move from the present ministry of the Holy Spirit to the future glory of God’s children, from sanctification to the hope of future glory. Christianity is always about hope, never despair. The fundamental attitude of the believer is always one of hope.

As believers we have three hopes that are presented for us in this passage: 1) our hope for a new creation, 2) our hope for the resurrection of the body, and 3) our hope for God’s help in the present. Yes, we go through many trials and even suffering in this life. But we can persevere in the present because we have hope for the future.
I. Our hope for a new creation (18-21)

Paul begins by speaking about our hope for a new creation. We can persevere through pain and suffering because even the very creation around us looks forward in hope.

   A. The creation waits for God’s glory to be revealed in us (18-19)
      – 2 Corinthians 4:17

Paul tells us that the whole creation waits for God’s glory to be revealed in us. Look at verses 18-19: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:18-19)

Last week, when we looked at verse 17, we talked about suffering with and for Christ. But here when Paul talks about our present sufferings, he is talking about suffering in more general terms. Our present sufferings are all the sufferings we experience in this life. These include sadness, sickness, sorrow, death, mourning and pain. That’s a lot of suffering, but Paul says our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Paul says something similar in 2 Corinthians 4:17 when he says: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17) What’s Paul saying? Weigh up all your suffering, and then weigh up God’s glory to be revealed – they are not even worth comparing. The eternal glory to come far outweighs them all.

Back to Romans 8 notice Paul says this glory is a glory that will be revealed in us. And the creation is waiting for this glory to be revealed in us. Paul says in verse 19: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:18-19)

That phrase “eager expectation” is a word that means to stretch your head to see something. I like the J.B. Phillips translates this verse: “The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own.” (Romans 8:19; Phillips Translation) The creation is standing on tiptoes, stretching its neck forward, straining to see, waiting in eager expectation.

Why does all creation wait like this? Because the creation cannot be restored until God’s glory is revealed in us as sons and daughters of God. Now we are already sons of God. We saw that last week. We have already been adopted into God’s family. But it doesn’t always look that way. We wonder, “If I’m God’s child, why do I still suffer?” Because our sonship has not yet been revealed. But when Christ returns, it will be made clear to all. And the whole creation waits for this glory to be revealed in us.

   B. The creation was subjected to frustration at the fall (20)
      – Genesis 3:17

You might wonder why the creation suffers in the present. Paul tells us it is because the creation was subjected to frustration at the fall. Look at verse 20: “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” (Romans 8:20)

Why does creation wait eagerly for our redemption? Because creation also needs to be redeemed. As God said to Adam in Genesis 3:17: “Cursed is the ground because of you.” (Genesis 3:17) The creation was subjected to frustration at the fall.

So, who subjected the creation to frustration and why? It wasn’t Adam, although it was Adam’s sin that led to it. It was not Satan, although it was Satan’s temptation that led to Adam’s sin. No, God is the one who subjected the creation to frustration as part of the curse for our sin.

The fall wasn’t even creation’s fault, and yet it still waits in eager expectation as it suffers the effects of sin. How much more then should we who caused creation’s fall look forward in hope.

   C. The creation will be freed from its present bondage to decay (21)
      – Isaiah 65:17-19; 2 Peter 3:13

The creation was subjected to frustration at the fall, but the creation will one day be freed from its present bondage and decay. Back to Romans 8 look at verse 21 where Paul writes: “… in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

The present creation is in a state of death and decay because of sin. But it will not always be this way. One day the creation will be freed from its bondage to decay and brought into the same freedom we will share as children of God.

We read about this new creation in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. God says in Isaiah 65: “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind … the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more.” (Isaiah 65:17-19) Or as we read in 2 Peter 3:13: “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.” (2 Peter 3:13)

And so, yes creation was subjected to frustration because of the fall. And yet as believers we have hope. Even creation looks forward to the day when God’s glory will be revealed in us, because our freedom will also mean creation’s freedom. That’s our first hope this morning. We have hope for a new creation.

II. Our hope for the resurrection of the body (22-25)

Next Paul speaks about our hope for the resurrection of the body. And he says three things about the resurrection these next verses. We who have the Spirit groan along with creation, we wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies, and we wait patiently for what we do not yet have.

   A. We who have the Spirit groan along with creation (22-23)
      – John 16:21,33

First of all, we who have the Spirit groan along with creation. Look at verse 22: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” (Romans 8:22) We’ve already seen that the creation was subjected to frustration at the fall. Now Paul compares that frustration to groaning. But it’s not just any old groaning. He has a very specific type of groaning in mind – “groaning as in the pains of childbirth.”

Childbirth is painful, but it has two things going for it compared to other types of suffering. It is temporary, and it has purpose. The pain is real enough, but it is soon forgotten when the baby is born. It’s like what Jesus said to his disciples in John 16: “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world…. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:21,33)

And so, the creation groans as in the pains of childbirth. But it’s not just creation who groans. Paul says that we who have the Spirit groan along with creation. Back to Romans 8 look at verse 23: “Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly.” (Romans 8:23)

The firstfruits in the Old Testament was the initial offering you made after the harvest. It was made in faith and in anticipation of the greater harvest to come. When Paul says that we have the firstfruits of the Spirit, it is similar to the pledge or guarantee we saw last week in the book of Ephesians. God gives us the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance to come. (Ephesians 1:13-14).

What does Paul mean when he says that we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan along with creation? He is saying that just like the pains of childbirth, our sufferings as Christians are temporary, and they have purpose. Childbirth is painful, but the result is amazing. A child is born. In the same way your sufferings have meaning and purpose.

The sufferings you experience in this life are not death pangs but birth pangs! God is doing something new, and God is bringing something good out of your sufferings. We will see that next week when we get to Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) All the suffering and sorrow you experience in this life will eventually result in the new creation and the resurrection of our bodies.

   B. We wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies (23b)
      – Philippians 3:20-21

And that’s what Paul talks about in the next verses. Back to Romans 8, Paul writes in verse 23: “… as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23)

Now once again, it may sound odd to hear Paul speak about “waiting” for our adoption as sons. Weren’t we already adopted into God’s family when we first trusted Christ? Absolutely. But even though we are already adopted, the fullness of all that adoption means is still in the future. We have been adopted into God’s family, but we are still awaiting the redemption of our bodies.

Do you remember what we learned about our bodies back in Romans 8:10? That even though you became a new person when you trusted in Christ, your body is still “dead because of sin.” In other words, when you become a Christian, you become new on the inside, but your body doesn’t change. Your body is still mortal. Just like the creation is currently subject to frustration, your body is still subject to sickness, sin and death.

But just as the creation will be restored in glory, so will your body. And so, just as the creation waits eagerly for God’s glory to be revealed in us, we wait eagerly as well. We wait eagerly for the redemption of our bodies. If creation waits with eager expectation for God’s glory to be revealed in this way, how much more should we!

What will these new resurrection bodies look like? We are not told exactly, but we are told this. Our new resurrection bodies will be like Jesus’ resurrection body. For example, we read in Philippians 3: “We eagerly await a Savior… the Lord Jesus Christ, who… will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)

We’ve already been adopted into God’s family. But our current bodies are still subject to sickens, sin and death. And so, we eagerly await the redemption of our bodies.

   C. We wait patiently for what we do not yet have (24-25)
      – 2 Corinthians 4:18

But the key word here is “wait.” We don’t have our new bodies yet. And so, we wait patiently for what we do not yet have. Back to Romans 8 look at verses 24-25: “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Hope looks to the future, not to the present. Hope that is seen is no hope at all. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 4:18: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

First comes the groaning, then comes the glory. And so, as Christians we hope, and we wait. Ours is not a doubting, wavering hope. Rather it is a sure and certain hope in God’s promises. We don’t enjoy all the blessings of the new creation and the new resurrection body yet. But we know it’s coming, and so we can wait patiently. We can persevere through the suffering, because the glory is coming. We wait patiently for what we do not yet have.

III. Our hope for God’s help in the present (26-27)

Paul has spoken about our hope for a new creation. He has spoken about our hope for the resurrection of the body. But those things are all in the future. So now, finally, Paul speaks about our hope for God’s help in the present. And he tells us two things here. The Spirit helps us in our weakness. And the Spirit helps us to pray.

   A. The Spirit helps us in our weakness (26)
      – James 5:13

First, the Spirit helps in our weakness. Romans 8:26 says: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” (Romans 8:26) The word translated “helps” here is a word that means the Spirit “bears your burdens along with you.” We all carry many burdens in this life. And many times those burdens are more than we can bear on our own. How comforting to know that no matter how weak you may feel, God is there to help you with your weakness.

A lot of that help comes through prayer. As James 5:13 says: “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray.” (James 5:13) But what if I don’t know what I should pray? What do I do then?

   B. The Spirit helps us pray (26-27)
      – 1 John 5:14-15

Well, the Spirit helps you with that, too. The Spirit not only helps us in our weakness. The Spirit helps us pray. Back to Romans 8 look at the rest of verse 26: “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us.” (Romans 8:26)

The problem is that in our weakness, many times we don’t even know what we should pray. We don’t know the future. We don’t know what’s best for us or others. Sometimes we even pray for the wrong things. We know if we pray according to God’s will he hears and answers us, but we don’t always know God’s will in a particular situation. So what good are our prayers?

The good news is that the Holy Spirit helps us here also. You don’t know what to pray, but the Spirit comes and bears that burden of prayer along with you. The Spirit himself intercedes for us.

      1) The Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express (26)

He does this in two ways. First, verse 26 tells us that the Spirit intercedes for us “with groans that words cannot express.” (Romans 8:26) This is the third time now that we find “groaning” in these verses. Creation groans as it awaits its restoration. We groan as we await the resurrection of the body. Now we learn that the Holy Spirit groans as he intercedes for us.

You know those times when you cannot even put your prayers into words? You’re not sure what to pray or how even to say it? Don’t worry about it. The Spirit hears your sighs and groans, and he comes and groans along with you. So that’s the first way the Spirit intercedes for us. The Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

      2) The Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will (27)

And then secondly, the Spirit intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. Look at verse 27: “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Romans 8:27)

Here’s the deal. Even as the Spirit groans along with you, God knows the mind of the Spirit, and the Spirit knows the will of God. And that is a perfect match for effectual prayer!

1 John 5 says: “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)

Well, the Spirit knows God’s will perfectly, and he intercedes for us in accordance with God’s will. And that means that God will answer every time.

What a wonderful encouragement to prayer! Even when we do not know exactly what we should pray, even when we may pray wrongly, the Spirit helps us pray. The Spirit prays what we would have prayed if we knew God’s will for our situation. The Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express and in perfect accordance with God’s will.

CONCLUSION: We live in a fallen world that is under a curse because of sin. That curse brings much pain and suffering. But the good news of Romans 8 is that we can persevere through the pain because we have hope.

We have hope for a new creation, all of creation renewed in Christ and restored to its former glory. You think God’s creation is beautiful now? Wait until you see it restored.

We have hope for the resurrection of the body. These old bodies of ours are still subject to sickness, sin and death. We can’t trust them. They get old, they get hurt, they break down. But your new body will be perfect in every way. Just think of it! You will have a perfect body, and you will be living in a perfect world.

And even though most of these hopes are for the future, you also have the hope for God’s help in the present. The Spirit helps you in your weakness, and even when you don’t know what to pray, the Spirit does, and he intercedes for you in accordance with God’s will.

Hope means you don’t have what you want yet. It’s still in the future. And that means waiting. Waiting is hard. But God’s Spirit is with you while you wait.

Yes, we all go through much pain and sorrow in this fallen world. But we can persevere in the present because we have hope for the future. So, even in the face of suffering, put your hope in God and his promise of future glory.

© Ray Fowler

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