Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 19, 2018
Let us begin this morning with our March memory verse. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” As I have stated already, verse 18 is a fighter verse. For it helps us to fight the fight of faith against the sins of despair, anxiety, and grumbling.
Last Sunday, I preached through Romans 8:12-19 and barely skimmed the surface of verse 18 and 19; therefore today we are going to incorporate them in our teaching for this morning. So with that said, let us stand in honor of the Word of God and follow along as I read Romans 8:18-27.
In our text for today we can utilize this approach and make two very easy and interesting observations. First we can see that there is repetition, and what is being repeated is the concept of groaning. In verse 22 we see that Creation is groaning. In verse 23 we see that Christians are groaning. And in verse 26 we see that the Holy Spirit is groaning. Therefore we see three levels of groaning: creation, believers, and the Holy Spirit.
So what are they groaning about? Deliverance. Deliverance from what? Deliverance from the consequences of sin and to glory. So let us examine this groanings one at a time, starting with Creation.
Groaning of Creation
If you are going to study Creation, you must start at the beginning. Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created…” Created what? Everything. Revelation 4:11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Everything that exist; time, space, matter, was created by God. Therefore God has authority over all things and he can do whatever he pleases with His creation. As we will read in Romans 9, God is the potter and we are the clay. This is a fundamental and consistent theme throughout the Bible.
After God created everything in six days, what was Creation like? Fortunately, God tells us in Genesis 1. In chapter 1 God has a pattern that after he creates something we are told, “God saw that it was good.” And he keeps saying it was good, until we get to verse 31 when it says, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” (See evening and morning, six days.)
Let me ask you a question, is that how you would describe creation? Very good? Not if we are honest. Creation is a monster. Floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, mudslides, wild animals, bacteria, they list goes on and on. Creation many times seems to be our enemy.
Therefore, something must have gone horribly wrong, between Genesis 1 and today, for today Creation would not be described as very good. Creation is actually the opposite of very good; it is very bad.
So what happened? Why is that this world seems so driven to destroy us? That is simple, it is because of man's sin. After creation, Adam and Eve rejected God's authority over them, and disobeyed his good Word. This led to sin entering the world, death entering the world, and creation to be cursed.
We see this explicitly in Genesis 3, when God confronts Adam for his sin. God says to Adam in Genesis 3:17, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Creation is cursed because Adam sinned against God. This is why the world we live in is full of thorns, thistles, poison plants, parasites, diseases, forrest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. It all has to do with the sin of man.
As it says in our text for this morning, verse 20, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.” It was not creation desire to be so messed up. It was God's desire. God subjected it to its current condition. Creation was created by God and is being used by God to display his wrath against humanity. Creation is a tool in the hands of God.
The question is how long will this subjection go on? Forever? No. There will be an end to creation's groaning. Look at verse 19, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” The moment where the curse of Creation comes to conclusion is when all of God's elect have come into the fold through the preaching of the gospel.
I believe this is why Jesus says in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Why does the gospel have to go to all nations, so that all of God children will repent and place their faith in Christ. When this happens, and all of Jesus' sheep hear his voice, the end will come. Christ will then return, and with Christ's return, all of God's children will become like Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:51, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” When the full number of those destined to become Christians, actually become Christians. The trumpet sounds, Christ returns and we are all changed to be perfectly like Christ. Therefore, the Bride of Christ is revealed in both quantity and quality.
And this is what creation is groaning for, to be unleashed from its bondaged and to be returned to its original stated of being very good. It longs to get back to the Garden of Eden.
But as I said, Creation is not the only one who is groaning. We as Christians are also gowning. Look at verse 23, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
The believer's groaning is nearly identical to Creation's groaning. We are also looking forward to the same release from the curse of this world. And this groaning is a product of what is called the “Already, but not yet.” I have spoken about this condition numerous times over the years, and we see it in our text for today. If you recall from last week, we read about how the Holy Spirit testifies to us that we are the Sons of God. That the Holy Spirit gives us a spirit of Adoption. However, you will notice that in verse 23 it says that we wait eagerly for adoption as sons. Which one is it? Are we adopted now, or are we adopted later? The answer to that question is yes. We are already adopted, and we are not yet adopted. How is this possible? It is possible because Christians live in two worlds.
We are in this world, but we are not of the world. The Kingdom of God has invaded the Kingdom of Satan through our hearts. Heaven has broken into the domain of darkness through the Holy Spirit indwelling those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul means in verse 23 when he says, “who have the firstfruits of the Spirit.” That is a reference to Christians.
However, the first fruits of the Spirit is not the full fruits of the Spirit. Yes, we as Christians have been born of the Spirit, but we have not reached maturity in the Spirit. As I stated earlier, we do not became fully like Christ until the last trumpet sounds. Is it our destiny? Yes. Are we progressing towards that goal? Yes. But in this present moment we are not there yet.
Therefore, we, like creation, groan for full redemption. We groan to be fully redeemed to the Father. We groan for complete deliverance from this fallen world. We groan for the “not yet”. The Apostle Paul calls this “not yet”, hope. Look at verse 24, “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” This salvation is not the same as no condemnation we saw in verse 1. This salvation is complete deliverance from the entirety of sin, death, and all aspects of the curse.
This hope is the a fundamental mark for a Christian. We, above all, are a people of hope. We are to set our gaze upon the future, one that we have been promised, but have not yet received. Our best life is not now, our best life is some day in the future. As it says in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” This world is not our home, we are sojourners, we are exiles. We are just passing through on our way to glory.
And this future destiny of glory has been purchased for us in the past through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our eternal hope of deliverance from the curse is secure because Christ became our curse. He is our deliverer.
And this is the first step in fighting the fight of faith. When all the world seems like it is against you, you must set your eyes upon what Christ purchased for you. He purchased for you an eternal hope of glory. And as it says in verse 18, “ the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Glory is just across the finish line. It is the prize that awaits us in our Father's arms. Therefore do not sulk and throw yourself a pity party, set your eyes upon your citizenship in Heaven.
Groanings of the Spirit
But let's be honest, this is, at times harder then you think? Life is ruthless, the schemes of Satan are from time to time, overwhleming. The present darkness of this world can sometimes suffocate you: loneliness, depression, health, family turmoil, persecution. At times we don't know if we have the strength to endure. What do we do, when we have reached our limit and don't think we can take one more step? Look at verse 26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
This word for “help” mean to come to our aid; to join us in the battle, side by side and take part in our struggle. God himself in the person of the Holy Spirit is our Helper. And how does he help us? Through prayer.
When life is overwhelming, what does the indwelling Spirit cause us to do in response? Pray. The way he helps us is through prayer. The Spirit does not remove the difficulty. He does not give us supper power to overcome whatever obstacle stands in our way. The Spirit helps us to pray.
Therefore, Christians are not just a people of hope, they are a people of prayer. But what kind of prayer? Our text tells us with groanings too deep for words. What does that mean? I will tell you what it doesn't mean. It does not mean speaking in tongues. Some people try to make an argument that this is what Paul is reaching for, but it is not the same word. Tounges is glossolalia. This word is alaletois. Glossolalia means to speak languages. Alaletois means unspoken.
So what does it mean? It means something very similar to what we have already seen? Creation groans for our deliverance. We groan for our deliverance. And the Spirit groans for our deliverance. However, the Spirit groanings are not like Creations and it is not like ours. Our groanings are based on hope, things that are unseen. The Spirit's groanings are based on perfect knowledge. Look at verse 27 “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” The Spirit of God, who now dwells in every believer causes us to prayer in union with God's will.
And these prayer may be seemingly counter-intuitive. For the Spirit may cause you to pray, not that your cancer would be taken away, but that it would be used for God's glory. The Spirit may cause you to pray, not that you have more money, but that you could learn to be content in all situations. The Spirit may cause you to pray, not that you will find a spouse so that you are not so lonely, but that you would find your satisfaction in Christ alone.
It is the Spirit that causes us to pray the will of God in the midst of our weakest moments. And we can rest assured that in those moments, God hears our prayer and answers our prayers for the Spirit and the Father are one.
Therefore, because of the Spirit we 1) have been born again, 2) our minds are now set upon Godly things, 3) we can now walk in accordance to God's law, 4) we have the Spirit of Adoption testifying to us that we are God's children, and 5) we have a perfect intercessor who lays upon our heart the will of God and therefore we can have confidence that God hears and answers our prayers.