Albert N. Martin
I invite you to follow with me in your Bibles as I read from Romans chapter 8.
In laying out the privileges of those who are adopted into the family of God by grace, on the basis of the work of Christ, the Apostle has just declared that all such adopted ones are given the spirit of adoption, and are given the spirit of heirs and joint heirs with Christ. Then he makes a qualifying statement at the end of verse 17, “If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.”
Now follow the reading of verses 18 through 25.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to usward. For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, that is, the redemption of our body. For in hope were we saved: but hope that is seen is not hope: for who hopes for that which he sees? But if we hope for that which we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”
By the gift of the Spirit and the operations of the Spirit in renovating man from the inside out, when God is done and gives us our resurrected bodies, we shall reflect the likeness of Christ. He will be the Firstborn, the elder Brother in the family, all of which bear His image.
But is that all God’s purposed to do: put a perfected man into a cursed creation? There would be a constant incongruity between restored man and unrestored creation! So, in the redemption that God has predestined, He has set His heart not only on this marvelous renovation of man, the rebel, but of the very creation that has been cursed for man’s sake. This is what I read in your hearing from Romans chapter 8. Look at it now.
Paul says in verse 18, “I reckon,” this is a sober, reflective conclusion. This is not something he felt in a moment of heightened, spiritual, emotional fervor. He said this is his sober, reflective judgment: “That the sufferings of the present time [that is that believers bear because of their union with Christ] are not even worthy to be compared with the glory [now, notice] which shall be revealed to us.” He says present sufferings should not even be talked about in the same sentence with the glory that will be revealed to usward.
Then, as he’s going to describe that glory, notice where the focus shifts: “For the earnest expectation of the creation waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” John says, “Now are we sons of God, but it does not yet appear what we shall be.”
Paul says in terms of that time, the sons of God will be revealed for who they really are—God’s precious ones, whom He has marked out to perfectly reflect the likeness of His Son with perfected, sinless spirits and resurrected, glorified bodies that will throb with the very life of the body of our Lord’s glory.
He says the very creation is waiting for that to happen. Why? Why is this whole world waiting for something to happen to you and to me? Well, he’s going to tell us.
“For the creation was subjected to vanity or futility not of its own will.” Here the creation is personified into a person, and he said the creation made no choice to be in its present state, but by reason of Him who subjected it, that is, it is God who pronounced the curse upon this world, upon this creation. He says He did this, “In hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God.”
When God imparts all the glory of the salvation He purposed for His people, the whole creation is going to be liberated from its bondage, the curse placed upon it because of man’s sin. When man’s sin is thoroughly dealt with, then the earth which has been cursed for man’s sake will also know God’s redemptive, liberating power. He says here’s one of the proofs of it, verse 22:
“For we know that the whole creation groans and travails in pain.”
That’s the verb you would use to say what happens to your wife when she’s been looking at the clock or looking at her watch and says, ‘Honey, they’re coming two minutes apart. This is the real and sure-enough thing, not just crampiness, but I can time them. They’ve gone from three minutes, to two and a half, to two minutes.” What is that woman experiencing? She’s experiencing travail in pain. Paul says this created order that he personifies into a person is not only groaning, but it’s in the throes of birth contractions. It’s not in death pains; it’s in birth pains! Now, when momma begins to have her pains (three minutes, two and a half minutes, two minutes) you say, “Ain’t no baby born yet, but it won’t be long.” As long as she’s bopping around in her maternity clothes and waddling like a duck in no birth pains, she just looks a little like a waddling duck and nobody is too excited. But when the birth pains come and it’s time to get to the birthing center or to the hospital, you say, “Now something is about to be birthed! A new life is about to emerge!” That’s the imagery of the passage.
The whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together until now. Something’s going to be birthed. Earthquakes, cyclones, lava flows, eruptions. All of the so-called ‘natural tragedies’ that we say on the one hand when we go to certain places, “How could Paradise be more beautiful than what I’m seeing now?” A few hours or days later we see images in the newspaper, on the television, and we say, “It looks like part of this world has been turned into a living hell.” What’s the cause of this incongruity? The creation is groaning and travailing, longing to birth something! What will it birth? It will birth restored Eden.
He says: “Not only does the creation groan and travail together until now. Not only so, but ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves waiting for our adoption, that is, the redemption of our body.”
Here is a groaning and a travailing creation. Something’s going to be birthed, and here is the groaning child of God. He doesn’t use the second verb, so we can’t press the birth imagery, but the fact that he puts them in such close proximity—the groaning of the child of God. What makes him groan? Paul tells us explicitly in 2 Corinthians 5:4, “We who are in this present tent [this body] do groan, being burdened,” longing to put on our habitation from Heaven. This is the groaning of frustration of a partially renewed spirit. We have the firstfruits of the Spirit. That is, we have the first installments of the full harvest of God’s grace imparted and effectually working in us by the Spirit.
For we have the firstfruits of which the spirit is, the beginning, and there will be additional manifestations of His grace. However we take it, the best is yet to come.
When an Israelite, in obedience to God, was reaping the firstfruits to bring as an offering to God, he was taking but a smidgen of the entire harvest, and what we have, as believers, we know, as glorious as it is, it’s just an armful of sheaths. There’s a full field of redemptive blessing waiting to come home to harvest. When will it come home? When the voice of the archangel sounds and the trump of God blows, and Christ appears, we receive glorified bodies. It’s harvest time, and we’ll come with Him to inhabit what? A new heavens and a new earth. “For the creation itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.” If that doesn’t put you dancing in your feet you’re either half asleep, or you’re dead as a dodo. That’s what God’s predestined for every single one of His children and for this poor, groaning, travailing, sin-cursed creation.
The child of God, the one who is a true believer in any kind of spiritually healthy state cannot help but eagerly await, earnestly desire and love the return of Christ, because that child of God longs to experience the complete salvation for which he and the whole creation have been predestined.
Do you long for His appearing, let me ask you, dear child of God?
Bible Reference: Romans 8:17-25; 2 Corinthians 5:4