Glorious Hope – Romans 8:18–39 – Chris Wu
Where is humanity headed? Will science and tech solve all of humanity’s major problems? We’re living in the best time yet, and there is the promise that even better times are coming. On the other hand, we recognize that the trajectory of humanity is not necessarily positive with our inability to solve all of our problems. So is humanity headed for a glorious end? And what about those who are in Christ? What's our direction? Here's where the doctrine of glorification comes in. God has freed us to be His children - to be set aside for Him and to live in His Spirit: the doctrine of sanctification. The other side of that coin in glorification - or simply, Christian hope. What is Christian hope, and why does it matter?
Tension - Creation Groans. Paul tells us there’s a gap between present and future. We hope for glory that we do not yet see. (8:18-25) Christian hope knows there's a massive gap between present suffering and future glory. So there's tension. There's groaning, it affects everything. Creation, as well as us, groans.
It is external - all creation is subjected to this tension. In the present, creation groans together as it waits, eagerly, for the children of God. Paul calls this "bondage to corruption." Something is very wrong with creation. Things are not at all as they should be. There's a "full potential" that has not been met. Human beings were supposed to "fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…over every living thing…" (Gen. 1:28). Instead, we spend countless hours and dollars just trying to get along with creation.
It is internal - we ourselves, longing for our bodies. Our bodies are just as out of order, under a temporary curse of corruption, as is creation. The mention of "pains of childbirth" is the picture Paul paints to help us understand our situation. The groaning of creation is just that bad: like a pregnant woman in delivery, huffing and puffing, sweating, grimacing, crying, screaming with every contraction. And the glory to come is just that wonderful: like the joy of welcoming that beautiful child you hoped and waited for seemingly all your life. It's the best newborn of all, the one of Isaiah 65:17, For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Revelation 21:4, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Imagine a world with no death, no mourning, no crying, and no pain.
All of creation, us included, are waiting for a reality we don't see yet. Do you feel the tension now? Something incredible is coming, and our current situation pales in comparison. So we groan. Creation groans. We ourselves groan. We're longing.
Trajectory - The Spirit Groans (Intercedes). Though we are weak, the Spirit knows glory is coming; everything is working toward it. (8:26-30) The gap between the sufferings of this present time and the glory that is to be revealed is so great, and we are so weak, Paul says that we do not even know what we are supposed to pray for. We don't always know how to deal with this time, but the Spirit knows and He groans for us. The Spirit groans and intercedes.
The Spirit knows something we don't - God's will. So He doesn't groan how we groan. Paul says the Spirit knows the mind and will of God Himself (since He is God), and prays for us according to God's will. He prays knowing the amazing truth that Paul proclaims - all things work together for good for those who are called according to God's purpose (v. 28). The Spirit knows that God works together all things. Not some things, all things, and He works them together for good. He knows our weakness and He prays to orient us with God's will, because He knows where all the suffering is heading.
(v.29) For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. God is working things to an ultimate, glorious end. He has set us aside, effectually called us to life, justified us with the righteousness of Christ, and, just as certain as the rest, He will glorify us - all of it so we would be conformed to the image of His Son. We are becoming like Jesus, in His beauty and goodness, in His faithful obedience, in His glorious reign, in His freedom from sin and corruption, one day in new, redeemed bodies!
So the Spirit's groaning is both, consoling and correcting, sensitive to the present moment and attentive to the master plan. The Spirit sees and knows how all the lines of trajectory come together. Like an air traffic controller who sees all the flight paths and knows where each plane fits in. He sees our situation in the context the big picture of God's glory in us. So He prays for us to carry us forward to that glorious end. He groans in inexpressible ways as we struggle to understand how God works everything together for good.
Trust - Jesus Guarantees. At this point you may be tempted to think, "Well the lesson here then is that I just need to trust harder.” The Bible says there's glory coming, it's good, and God works all things to that good. So I just need to try harder to believe that truth, and God will be pleased." There's some truth to that… but Paul knows that just because you have heard this is true, it does not necessarily make it easier to believe and treasure. It's part of our problem as fallen and finite beings. Part of our weakness. We can be told the wonderful truth that God is working all things for good, but still doubt His commands or plans. The reality is we don't grab hold of glorification in our hearts. We accept God's word on the surface, but our hearts have an easier time trusting what we think we see right in front of us. Paul has one final thing to say about everything he has laid out. And it hits our problem right at the core. He says look to Jesus. Jesus Guarantees.
There are a bunch of things that easily make us doubt Christian hope. We encounter tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword; death, life, angels, rulers, things in the present, things to come, powers, even the physical dimension: height and depth and we are again reminded of that first lie in the garden - God is not really good, He is not for you, and His word cannot be trusted. He’s holding back – holding out on you. Believe it or not, Paul doesn't just say, "just believe!" No, he says, look at Jesus. He says, God is for us. And do you know how I know? Look at Jesus.
Jesus faced tribulation and distress. It was horrible. Did that separate us from His love? No, it confirmed it! Jesus was persecuted and rejected. It was despicable. Did that separate us from His love? No, it testified to it! Jesus knew hunger. He was stripped naked on the cross. He faced danger and the sword, leading to His humiliating death. He was handed injustice from rulers and powers. It was painful! Did any of that separate us from His love? No, it demonstrated and completed it! Jesus endured the full force of suffering before glorification, so the way could be opened and we could follow in His victory. Not just a picture, not an analogy. He actually did it.
Christian hope has a certain outcome. We hope for what we do not yet have, but we are assured of it by nothing less than the death and resurrection of the Son of God and the gift of His Holy Spirit! God did not spare His Son. And if He was willing to give us this most valuable gift, how could we doubt that He would give us all other, less costly, good gifts?
Paul can say "hope for the glory that is to be revealed" because he can also say, "Look at the cross. The pinnacle of suffering before glory. God is for us." So we are "more than conquerors" – because not only do we overcome these, but it turns out each of these have been used to demonstrate the love and victory of Christ. They aren't just defeated. They are made to work together for our good. We know one more piece of just how great Christ's love for us is. We become more conformed to His image.
The hope of glorification – of new heavens and new earth, of resurrected, redeemed bodies, of no more death, no more pain – more beautiful and desirable and necessary than ever before because He's the only one who can secure that hope. He’s the one who guaranteed it with His blood. He knows our sorrows and our weakness and overcame them all on our behalf. He made glorification a sure thing with His life, death and rising. I can hardly think of a better way to glorify God than to want Him for all that He is in response to all that we need. To find Him beautiful and desirable and necessary. This is Christian hope. The hope of glory. Tenderly and lovingly, God presents us with a hope that upends the biggest threats in our lives and dares us to turn our expectations upside down. So to live in faith is to face suffering, to face the groaning of this age, and then to look at Jesus and know that yes, even in this, God is for me. He didn’t hold back even His Son. Nothing will separate me from His love. He is making me like Jesus (glory!), and one day, with redeemed body, I will be glorified with Him as He wipes away every tear and death is no more.
This is Amazing Grace; This is Our God; All Who Are Thirsty; Living Hope; Doxology