By Andrew E. Courtis
Romans 5:1-8:39 is a section in Paul’s letter to the Romans that deals with practical outcomes of the doctrine of justification. This section begins (5:1-11) and ends (8:18-39) with an emphasis on hope. In the section under our present consideration (8:18-27) begins by saying “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (8:18). Suffering is a real part of life and it brings pain and perplexity into our lives. As hard and horrible as suffering is, when compared to the weight of glory that awaits the believer, suffering is momentary and light (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18). Paul calls them “sufferings of this present time” because they will be a reality throughout this present age. These sufferings affect all of life and as a result trials and tragedies are in this world. In this passage Paul discusses three groans that look forward to the coming glory. These groans (or longings) we will consider are Creation’s Groan (8:19-22), the Children’s Groan (8:23-25) and the Comforter’s Groan (8:26-27).
1. THE CREATION’S GROAN FOR GLORY (8:19-22)
The first groan Paul raises is the groan of creation. He writes, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (8:19). The reference to “the creation” is referring to all of nature apart from humanity. The original creation was a paradise, declared by God to be “very good”. But as a result of Adam’s sin, all “creation was subjected to futility” (8:20). This means that after the entrance of sin in the world (Gen. 3:1-6), devastating effects came as a result (Gen. 3:7-19). Specifically, the ground was cursed (Gen. 3:17) and a consequence was a restriction on productivity (Gen. 3:18-19). But notice that this judgment of God in subjecting creation to futility was “in hope” (8:20b). Paul adds “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21). This will occur at the revelation of Christ in which He will radically transform creation (Isaiah 11:6-9, 35:1; Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:1-5).
2. THE CHILDREN’S GROAN FOR GLORY (8:23-25)
The second groan in this passage is that of God’s children. All of God’s people are awaiting and longing for “adoption as sons” because we have the first fruits of the Spirit (8:23). Right now the believer’s adoption is a legal reality with partial privileges, but in the future it will be fully realized with perfect privileges. In the meantime who hold onto this hope with patience (8:24-25).
3. THE COMFORTER’S GROAN FOR GLORY (8:26-27)
The final groan is the groan of the Holy Spirit. Waiting on the Lord with patient endurance can be a difficult thing. Sometimes we struggle to pray what we ought to be. So in His grace the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness” by interceding for us with words beyond human comprehension (8:26). Such as an act of praying for us is also carried out by our Saviour (John 17; Heb. 4:14-16). The amazing thing is that the Father will answer the prayers of the Spirit because He will make requests perfectly in line with the will of God (8:27).
- What is it about this life that makes it hard to think about the perfect future glory?
- How does future glory outweigh present suffering? In what way does this help us in the midst of suffering? See Rom. 8:18 and 2 Cor. 4:16-18
- What does creation groan for and why? As Christians we are to be good stewards of creation, but what is the only way nature will be transformed? Read 8:19-22 and Isaiah 11:6-9, 35:1; Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:1-5.
- What do God’s people groan for and how should they do this? Read 8:23-25
- How does the Holy Spirit help God’s people in their weakness? Read 8:26-27