Have you ever watched a true artist work? Perhaps you have had a sketch drawn of you or you have stopped to watch someone painting a particular setting. True artists see the picture clearly – sometimes even more clearly than we can see the real thing.
It’s kind of like Connect the Dots. Sometimes you had a good idea of what the picture was even before you began. But even if you had an idea, you could not see it fully, and often a dot would be in an unexpected place to provide a little extra detail, and make the picture seem even more real.
Well, that is humanity’s problem right now. We can only see part of the picture that God is painting. Our sin keeps us from fully comprehending what is there, and even from realizing what is possible. But Scripture helps us connect the dots to make sense of what might be. The lines are not filled with color, so we do not see all of the beauty, but at least we can get a glimpse if we look closely enough.
In our passage this week (Romans 8.18-25), we will see some dots connected that you and I might not even know existed without Paul writing on God’s behalf. And although the dots may be without color, the glimpse we have can be invigorating.
But it is only understood if we are in the Spirit. That is why the second half of this series is called Life in the Spirit. We cannot see clearly even if we have the Holy Spirit. But for those without the Spirit, they can only see the dots, and cannot determine how they connect. So, this message is for believers. But if you are watching or listening and you do not believe in Jesus, perhaps something today can help you understand why some people you may know respond to life in a way that may be strange to you, and getting that little bit of clarity might help you not only see how to connect the dots, but to begin to see the picture as well.
Life is filled with suffering, but our suffering is not the end. And for those who have faith in Christ, the suffering we encounter on earth pales in comparison to the glory to be revealed later.
So, why does Paul talk about our need to wait patiently for the hope that he says we can have? Let’s take a look at Romans 8.18-25 and connect some dots from Genesis to Revelation.
In Romans 8.18, Paul mentions that the sufferings we face now are not worth comparing to what believers will one day experience in glory. He then talks about creation and how creation longs for the sons of God to be revealed (more on that below). Paul wrote that creation is groaning because it is in bondage. And then he wrote that we groan while we wait. And as we will see next week, the Spirit groans on our behalf has well. What is Paul talking about?
Well, as Maria (cf. The Sound of Music) once said, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
In Genesis 1, we learn that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. God created everything in six days and for five days, all that He had created was good. But after the sixth day, He declared it very good. Now, on the sixth day, God made livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth (Gen 1.24) and when that part was done, He still saw that it was good. But then He made man and woman and then saw what He had made was very good.
Then, in Genesis 2, we find out that God rested on the 7th day before we are given a more detailed account of what happened on Day 6. This look through the microscope at the creation of man on Day 6 reveals that God made man, then placed him in a garden, and then made woman from man. But in Genesis 3, man sinned (as Paul noted in Romans 5) and he was removed from the Garden of Eden and the way was blocked.
But what we also see in Genesis 3 is the curse that is put on Creation. Genesis 3.16 says the ground is cursed because of Adam. Thorns and thistles make the work tough. We need to remember that Adam was put into the Garden to take care of it (Gen 2.15; cf. Gen 1.28 also says have dominion). But after sin entered, Adam would have to “sweat” to have food to eat.
In Genesis 6, God used nature to destroy the earth by a flood. In Genesis 19, fire balls (sulfur and fire) rained down from heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah. By Exodus, we clearly see that slavery had been established (it was present in Genesis, but it is made clear in Exodus). As the Israelites travel, war was part of the picture. The Old Testament speaks of plagues, famine, pestilence, earthquakes, etc. Likewise, the Gospels and Acts talk about famine, earthquakes, etc.
Why do I mention this? Because the greatness of God is not just that He saves us, it is that He redeems Creation. Since Adam sinned, and the curse was placed on Creation – the earth, the stars, everything and everywhere has been eagerly longing for things to be set right (Romans 8.19). Paul’s word choice of longing is like when you stretch out your neck to see if something is coming. And the sign creation longs to see is the revealing of the sons of God – that is for the glory of mankind to be revealed in full in God’s sons and daughters. It was mankind that caused God to place the curse on Creation, and the curse will be lifted when mankind receives the glorious promise to come. But more on that in a few moments.
Verse 22 says that Creation has been groaning with the pains of childbirth. The pain of childbirth was multiplied (however you wish to interpret that) as God spoke to Eve after the first sin in Genesis 3.16. But even with that pain, Eve had multiple children. Genesis 4 tells us about Cain and Abel. Genesis 5 mentions Seth, so despite the pain, Eve had children. And countless women have had billions of children down through history. The pain is real, but the hope of what is to come…the joy to be experienced in holding, and then raising a child, is worth it.
That is the imagery that Paul used in Romans 8.22 and 23 about Creation and us. Creation suffers now. Believers suffer now. But the pain we are experiencing now is short-term (just like labor) compared to the life that is to come (just like birth). So, we groan and we ache and we hurt. Everyone suffers physically with pain in some way. Everyone suffers emotionally with worry. Everyone suffers relationally with others. But Christians also suffer due to ridicule and persecution because of our faith. Just like some pain is less than others and people experience the same types of pain differently, people experience suffering for Christ differently. But suffering does happen.
But again, that suffering is short-term compared to what awaits. The glory that is to be revealed to us already exists. We just cannot experience it yet. We cannot see it yet. But it is there and it is real. But we must wait. And Creation must wait. Until God says it is time.
And that leads us to verse 23 which says we also eagerly await. Specifically, Paul wrote that we await adoption as sons (and daughters). But wait, didn’t Paul already say we were adopted? Romans 8.15, which we reviewed last week, says “you have received the Spirit of adoption.” That is in the past tense. Now, just a few verses later Paul says we are waiting.
The adoption is final, but it is not fully realized. Think of it this way. A child and the new parents have been to court and the ruling has been made. But now, the child may need to go somewhere to get their stuff. The parents may take them there, and they may stop to do some shopping or get a bite to eat, but they have not yet made it home so they can celebrate properly with one another.
That is us. The verdict has been declared. All who believe in Jesus and the work He has done have been adopted by the heavenly Father, but we are not yet home. And when we finally arrive home, the greatest of the gifts we will receive (apart from being with Jesus for all of eternity) is our new bodies (Romans 8.23).
Those bodies are a part of the inheritance Paul mentioned in Romans 8.17. We suffer now in the perishable bodies we live in here on earth – bodies that are tainted because of the sin of Adam and by the sins we commit as well. But we await, with hope, a body that is not perishable (1 Corinthians 15.42), one that will not be marred by sin, and therefore will not have pain or face disease or be hungry, etc.
But for now we must wait. We wait with expectation. We wait with hope. Paul says we have been saved – again, past tense (Romans 8.24). But the finality of our adoption (and salvation) awaits us when God reveals His glory in us as part of our inheritance, which is the receiving of new bodies that allow us to live and be with Him for eternity.
The parallel passage in 2 Corinthians 4.7-16 says the same thing. Our outward bodes are wasting away due to the suffering. For Paul that wasting away including physical persecution such as beatings. But hope carries the day. You might remember I spoke about hope several months ago on a Hub Sunday. Hope is more than optimism. Hope is realism (in this case, recognizing the suffering we must endure) in the present, but knowing something greater exists and being certain (not just optimistic) that it will one day be ours. (Reminder: This message is for believers. Apart from Christ, that hope is not real. It is merely a wish.)
So, I began by connecting the dots of Romans 8 to Genesis. Now, let me briefly connect the dots within Romans.
In Romans 1.17, we see that God will make His righteousness manifest. Ultimately, He wants His righteousness manifest in us as we will see next week (Romans 8.29-30). But we get a hint of that in Romans 8.18 where Paul wrote that the glory will be revealed to us. Just like God’s righteousness has always been there, His glory has been as well. But it has not all been revealed. So, once again, Paul assures us that the day is coming. And so we wait through the suffering in hope, which is the same message we found in Romans 5.
In Romans 5.3, Paul wrote, “…we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and he does not put us to shame…” because the Holy Spirit shows us the love of God. So, as in Romans 5, we see in Romans 8 that suffering is real, but it is not the end for those in Christ Jesus. The endurance we gain and the character that is developed are both like that of Jesus as we will see next week in Romans 8.29-30.
We could connect a few more dots in Romans, but I promised Revelation. So, let us look at the idea of suffering and the long-term idea of hope there. In Revelation (notice the idea of revealing, or unveiling, which relates to what I just mentioned), God is at work beyond what we can see now, but one day, all of His righteousness and glory will be revealed and that will change the focus of suffering.
The suffering in Revelation is real, but the real suffering is on those who do not believe. Yes, a time of tremendous tribulation will come, and the antichrist will wreak havoc on any who believe. But those days are thankfully numbered. Revelation 16 shows the righteousness of God being poured out on the wicked through painful sores, blood in the water, intense heat, utter darkness, the drying up of a great river, and finally the storm of all storms which includes lightning, thunder, one-hundred pound hailstones, and the greatest earthquake in history. Even the mountains and islands will be destroyed.
And the groaning will grow louder. But the people do not repent (Rev 16.11). Instead, they curse God (Rev 16.21).
But creation’s groaning will grow louder as well. But hope is not lost. Because when we look at the end, we see something new. In Revelation 21, a new heaven and a new earth is revealed. We not only have creation restored to what it was, but we have a better version – Creation 2.0.
And this is why I love the passage in Romans we are reviewing today. I have held back my excitement, but as I said in my weekly email on Monday, Romans 8.18-25 might be my favorite verses from within my favorite chapter from within my favorite book of the Bible. The last verses of this chapter are probably tied with versus 31-39, but these verses are great.
Because God is going to redeem Creation.
Now, if I left you with that, you might not connect the dots. You may clearly see the picture of God’s redemption of humanity by the work of Jesus on the cross. But that is not the only reason Jesus died. He died to redeem Creation. He died to restore Creation to what it was meant to be. Romans 8.20 says that Creation has been subjected to futility, which means it has not met the goal God had for it. Creation will be set free from the bondage that it is in (v21).
Think about that for a second. Think of the beauty of a sunset. Think of waving of the grass in a field. Think of the beauty of the sea and then imagine its depths. Think of the vastness of the Grand Canyon. Think on the majesty of the mountains.
Last week, I mentioned that God sent His Son to redeem us from the side of the mountain. That is true. But what I didn’t share last week, is that Jesus also redeemed the mountain!
Now, that may not excite you, but let me connect one more set of dots for you. God created the heavens and the earth in six days and said it was good (Gen 1.25). Then, He made mankind, forming us out the dust of the earth and breathing life into us (Gen 1.26-27; Gen 2.7), and then God deemed His Creation very good.
The Bible is clear that God loves and protects His children. But Romans 8.18-25 and really 19-22 shows us that God is also going to restore Creation (not a brand-new heaven and new earth, but a fully restored one). God is planning to do that for what He called good. If God has plans to do restore what was good, how much more does He have for us, who were the completion of His Creation and which made it very good?
That is why Creation is waiting for us to be revealed as sons and daughters of God (v19). We are the cause of Creation’s fall. And when we are fully revealed in our new bodies, Creation will be fully restored for us as our new home.
But I repeat, if God is preparing to restore things like mountains and rivers, how much more does He have prepared for us? Let me remind you that Jesus told His disciples that He was going to prepare a place for them (John 14.2-3). That place is for all of God’s adopted children.
Now, let me remind you that God created the world in 6 days. This creation happened through Jesus (John 1.3, Colossians 1.16, Hebrews 1.2), whom has now had nearly 2000 years to prepare the perfect place.
That’s why this passage excites me. God loved us so much to die for us. But His love includes everything He created, which He intends to fully restore. And yet, we are the cream on top. So how much better will it be for us? So, we may suffer some now, but what awaits should provide all of the hope we need.
Do you have hope in Jesus? Do you have any hope at all? Others need that hope, especially in this season we have all been dealing with. So, let’s take the time to share some of the hope we have with others who are in need.