In our last lesson, we examined the first 17 verses of chapter 8. We will pick up right where we left off. Let’s begin by reading our text starting in verse 18.
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Paul wants us to understand that no matter what happens to us in this life, we all have the hope of heaven. All faithful Christians look forward to eternity. So, let’s begin breaking these verses down.
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
He also shared a similar statement to the church at Corinth.
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
I wish I could say that being a Christian will solve all your heartaches and pains, but it doesn’t. However, with God’s help and through His Word, you can learn to deal with the problems of this life and look at them at them from the proper perspective. Out of the people we read about in the New Testament, Paul is the one who suffered more than them all (2 Cor. 11:23-29). Despite all that he went through, he could proclaim these words with confidence because no matter what we go through in our short lives on this planet, it will not compare to the glory we will have in heaven.
I like what Charles Spurgeon says about our text:
Paul made our present sufferings a matter of simple arithmetic. He added them all up and saw what the total was. He was then about to say what an equal sum of glory would be, but he gave it up and just said, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Did they stand as one to a thousand? No, for then they would have been worthy of comparison. Even if our sufferings equaled one millionth of our future glory, they would not have been worth comparing. But Paul said that there was no proportion whatever to them. The sufferings were as a single drop and the glory as the boundless ocean. (Spurgeon’s Commentary on Great Chapters of the Bible [Kregel Publications, 1998, p.263]).
Paul also mentioned this glory that will be revealed, which is referring to our home in heaven and everything involved with it including the spiritual bodies we will have. We only get glimpses of what this will be; not even John knew what our new state would be like exactly because he wrote:
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Knowing that we will be like Christ and be in heaven should be enough to encourage us to press on and count all persecution, pain, and heartache as being a light affliction compared to the glory that will be revealed to us.
Next, Paul writes:
19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
This is a unique section of Scripture. There are several opinions on what creation is supposed to be. Some think it means the church, others non-Christians or all mankind. This is one of these areas that we can certainly disagree, but it doesn’t change the overall message. To me, it cannot be talking about these things I mentioned because in verse 23, Paul seems to make a distinction between the creation he talks about and man.
It seems to me that Paul is using a method similar to what other writers of the Bible have done in the past, which is to personify creation itself to make his point. Here are few examples:
Psalm 98:8 Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together
Isaiah 55:12 … The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
Psalm 77:16 The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled.
If we use the idea that creation in our passage is personified, then why would it eagerly wait for the revealing of the sons of God, which is referring to judgment day, when all faithful children of God will receive the glory Paul has been talking about? The reason is because of man, specifically Adam, which caused the earth to be cursed.
Genesis 3:17 Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying,`You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field. (Gen. 5:29).
This is why Paul wrote: 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;
Thanks to Adam, the creation of the earth for man was made void or subjected to foolishness. You will notice that the creation was not a willing participant, but it suffered it’s curse because of man. The same God that put man over His creation is the same God that cursed the ground because of man. However, as we continue this comparison of the creation personified, we see there is bright side to all of this.
21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
This is the reason that creation is looking forward to the judgment day because it will finally be free from the corruption that man placed on it. Just as our physical bodies will be no more at the day of Judgment, the physical earth will be no more. Now some like to teach the idea that the earth itself will be renewed and that Christians will live on that renewed earth. I can understand in part how some might get that idea because Peter wrote:
2 Peter 3:13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
John also wrote:
Revelation 21:1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
If you study this phrase out, “new heavens and new earth” what you find is that symbolically describes a major change. Isaiah used it to describe how we would be under a new covenant (Isa. 66:17, 22). So, Peter and John are referring to another major change in time, which is the judgment day with the earth will be burned up and the faithful will be found in heaven. While the physical earth will no longer exist, it will also be free from the corruption that man caused it to have.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.
Again, the earth is seen as suffering as a woman who labors with birth pangs all because of what man did. Just as woman can’t wait for the baby to be delivered so she can have relief, the creation can’t wait until that day when Jesus comes back again.
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.
Here we see the contrast between creation personified and those who have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The firstfruits is a term used in the Old Testament of offering the first produce of a crop to God as an expression of thanksgiving and in anticipation of there being more (Exod. 23:19; Lev. 23:10). Now, some would say this is referring to the apostles who were the first to have the Holy Spirit, but others say this is simply referring to all Christians who have the firstfruits of the promise from God that heaven will be their home. In fact, notice how the NCV translates our verse: “We have the Spirit as the first part of God’s promise.”
I don’t know of any who would deny that those who are saved have tasted the grace of God and have experienced the joy and satisfaction of that grace as revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Word. However, we just have a taste of what heaven is like so we also groan within ourselves for that day where our adoptions as sons and daughters will be complete when we will receive our new spiritual bodies. Paul talks a lot about this in 1 Cor. 15.
Now, it’s true that we are already considered adopted, just as we are already considered saved, but nothing will be final until the day of judgment, which is why Paul can say we are eagerly waiting for the adoption. Paul then writes:
24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
Paul was eager to be with Christ, and every Christian should be eager as well. We can know that salvation will be ours as we continue to live for God according to His Word. We can have full assurance of the hope of heaven even though we cannot see it at this time. I am reminded of Thomas who refused to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead until he could touch Jesus and see Him with his own eyes.
John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Even though you and I have never seen Jesus or heaven in person, we can know from the Word of God that Jesus is real and so is heaven. We can know that all the promises given in Scripture are true, which is why we can eagerly wait for that judgment day with perseverance when Jesus will return.
Our next two verses have been interpreted in various ways. I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers, but I will I share my thoughts of what I see these verses saying.
Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Likewise, points us back to immediate context about the hope we have. Just as we have seen the Holy Spirit being involved in our lives (9, 11, 23), we can know that He has given us everything we need in order to deal with our weaknesses through the Word that He inspired.
J. B. Phillips paraphrases as follows: “The Spirit of God not only maintains this hope within us, but helps us in our present limitations.”
There are some who want to say that the Spirit in these verses is talking about the human spirit. There is no valid reason in my mind to do this other than to try and avoid what the verses are teaching about one of the roles of the Holy Spirit and the fact that some charismatic groups try and twist our verses to teach that one will speak in tongues or have special enlightenment from the Holy Spirit. Most scholars and translators are in agreement that the Holy Spirit is under consideration here. I don’t know of any who doesn’t think the Holy Spirit is being referred to in verse 23. Since, Paul said, “Likewise,” it not hard to see that he is pointing back to the Holy Spirit and not the human spirit.
Grammatically, you will find the word ‘helps’ is in the 3rd person, while the word ‘our’ is in first person. The word ‘helps’ carries the idea that the help is coming from someone else. Also, one does not intercede for himself, which again points to the Holy Spirit. You also see a contrast between the person and the Spirit.
For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
That little word, ‘but’ shows that there is a contrast between these two, thus ‘we’ refers to Christians and the Spirit to the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes, people say that this cannot refer to the Holy Spirit because only Jesus is our mediator, and Jesus is our intercessor in verse 34. It is certainly true that Jesus is our only mediator (1 Tim. 2:5). However, an intercessor is not the same a mediator. In fact, we can have hundreds or thousands of fellow Christians be intercessors for us (1 Tim. 2:1). So, we should have no problem seeing that that the Holy Spirit and Jesus can intercede for us as well.
It has been said that Jesus intercedes for us at the throne of God, while the Holy Spirit intercedes at the throne of our hearts.
H. Leo Boles wrote: “Since [the Holy Spirit] dwells in Christians, he helps them in the act of prayer. Prayer is to God the Father in the name of Christ, and by the help of the Holy Spirit. Hence, each member of the Godhead is included in acceptable prayer” (1983, 256).
Does the mean that the Holy Spirit is doing something that we are going feel or is He going to nudge us in a certain direction? No, it doesn’t. It simple lets us know that the Holy Spirit is helping us. Paul gives the specific example of our prayers. This is no way is saying that the Father doesn’t know what we are praying, but shows how the entire Godhead is involved in our prayers. Though we are not told everything that is done to carry out the providence of God, it certainly possible the Holy Spirit helps play a role in the providence of God.
As I mentioned earlier, some might want to avoid such a conclusion because of how the charismatic twist our Scriptures. When they read “groanings too deep for words” they think this refers to some kind of Spirit inspired prayer language where the Holy Spirit takes over and they speak in tongues, which is never a real language but a bunch random made up words. We can know that such things are not happening today because speaking in tongues in the first century could be understood or interpreted, but that miraculous gift ended in the first century after God’s Word was fully revealed (1 Cor. 13). Some other reasons we can know this is not referring to speaking in tongues can be seen from David Roper:
1. The “groanings too deep for words” are either not uttered or cannot be uttered, while the so-called “prayer language’ is uttered. Stott said it this way: “These groans can hardly be glossolalia, since those ‘tongues’ or languages were expressed in words which some could understand and interpret. Here Paul is referring rather to inarticulate groans.”
2. Even in the New Testament times (“the age of miracles”), not every Christian had the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues (see, 1 Cor. 12:30); but Romans 8:26 is talking about how the Holy Spirit helps every child of God. Thus it cannot be talking about tongue-speaking.
3. This is third time “groaning” is mentioned in this chapter (8:22,23,26). In neither of the two previous references does “groaning” mean “speaking in tongues” or “speaking in a special prayer language.” Why should it mean that there?
4. Nothing in the text or context indicates that Paul had in mind some special “prayer language.” This is an interpretation read into the text by those anxious to find charismatic teaching wherever they can. (Truth For Today Commentary – Romans 8 -16 p.57).
We also don’t have to have the Holy Spirit Himself give us special insight to understanding the Word. Think about it, if The Holy Spirit, who inspired the Word in the first place, couldn’t make the Father’s message clear enough for us to understand it in its written form, then what would make us think He could make the same message clearly through His direct help? If we cannot know the will of God as we are commanded to do (Eph. 5:17), then no one could truly understand the will of God without further help of the Holy Spirit, yet God’s Word itself says that we have everything we need to be complete (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We can know through the Scriptures if we have eternal life (1 John 5:13). We can read and understand the Word of God (Eph. 3:4). It becomes clear that those who claim to have special insight into God’s Word through the Holy Spirit are wrong because they make claims that contradict the Bible and others who make the same claim.
So, all Paul is saying is that all Christians has something that no one else does, which is the Holy Spirit interceding for us in our prayer lives. There are times when we simply don’t know how to put into words what we have in our hearts to the Lord. However, the Holy Spirit helps us with this as He knows us inside and out.
As Wayne Jackson wrote:
Hardeman Nichols observes: “Surely the Holy Spirit who has the ability to completely reveal the mind of God to man would have no difficulty in pleading man’s cause to God” (1980, 350).
It is not impossible, though, that there may be a blending of two thoughts. Some think that the groanings, though originating with the Christian, actually are “shared by the Holy Spirit and the believer” (McComiskey 1976, 424).
John Stott suggests that “the Holy Spirit identifies with our groans,” so that “we and he groan together” (245). One thing is certain: when the groanings reach God, they are perfectly clear to him.
It is imperative, though, that we emphasize this point: it must not be concluded that the Father could not know of our plight apart from the Spirit’s intercession; no, rather, it is the role of the Spirit as a companion in the Christian’s life that is being emphasized. His work has been divinely orchestrated, consistent with the planning of the entire Godhead. (Intercession of the Spirit- Christiancourier.com).
27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
This is talking about God the Father who searches our hearts and knows the mind of the Spirit. It is the will of God that Holy Spirit make intercession for us. Not only does God know our hearts, He certainly knows the mind of the Spirit because He is part of the GodHead. As I already pointed out, He only intercedes for the saints. Though there is much more we would love to know about the GodHead and how it works in the background, verses like these give us some insight to how much God loves us and how the entire Godhead is involved in our lives, which should cause us to rejoice.
Our next verse also teachs us about the providence of God.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
Verse 28 is a verse that many know and draw comfort from because it stresses the point that we can know that all things work together for good. Now, some misunderstand this verse and think it means that if you are Christian that everything in your life is going to be good, but that is not what this is saying. It does teach us that God is involved in our lives and though at times we will have bad things happen to us, when we look at the big picture, we will see that our connection with God will work out for the better in the end. If not in this life, it will certainly work of for the good in our eternal lives with God.
Sometimes, people will allow bad moments in their lives to cause them to leave God, but that should never be our attitude. There are so many examples we could use to show God making some good come out of something that could be perceived as bad.
First, is Joseph. He found himself sold into slavery by his brothers and even thought his dad had abandoned him, but in the end, God used this bad situation to make Joseph able to save the lineage of Christ. He was put in second command over Egypt, which caused his family to be saved from the famine that struck the land. It was a hard lesson for Joseph to accept, but he did and even told his brothers that their salvation was the will of God (Gen. 50:19-21).
Second, is Paul. He found himself in a lot of bad situations, but he could always see good in his circumstance. Many would view being locked up as a bad thing, but notice what Paul says about his imprisonment.
Philippians 1:12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Let’s never forget what Paul wrote in:
2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
This is something that only Christians can benefit from. As Paul wrote in our Roman text, God makes things work for the good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. Every person that becomes a Christian is called by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). When we love God and live according to His will, He will be there for us even when things are going bad. We can know that no matter how bad things get in this life, we have an eternal glory waiting for us in heaven.
Our next few verses are used by Calvinist to teach predestination, but these verses don’t teach what they want them to.
Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
These two short verses are considered the most difficult to understand in the Book of Romans. As I read them, I am sure you can understand why the Calvinist like these verses. They talk about God’s foreknowledge and those that were predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus who was the perfect likeness of the Father. These predestined ones are the ones who are called, justified, and glorified. On the surface, it almost sounds like God has chosen certain people to be saved and others to be lost.
While this sounds good, we can know from the rest of the Bible that certain people are not predestined to be saved or lost because the gospel call is for everyone. Even Paul taught:
1 Timothy 2:3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
If people are either saved or lost, then these words are not true. God cannot desire all men to be saved if some of them have no choice to be lost. This concept would also violate mans’ free will and make God show partiality, which He does not (Rom. 2:11).
When we keep our verses in context, we can see they are still talking about how God has always been involved in our lives. I want you to consider what McGarvey wrote about our two verses:
"Before man was created God foresaw his fall, and designed the gospel for his redemption; this fact is well attested by scripture (Rom. 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:8; 3:9; Col. 1:25-26). In those times eternal, man, the gospel, justification, etc. existed only in the purpose of God; and it is of these times and conditions that the apostle speaks, showing how God foreknew that a certain class yet to be born would accept a salvation yet to be provided through the terms of a gospel yet to be made actual. As to this class he foreordained, or fore-decreed, that they should, after the resurrection, bear the image or likeness of his Son, that the Son might have the preeminence of being the firstborn (from the dead) among many brethren.
There is a lot we don’t know about God. However, we do know that He knows everything, but knowing something is the not the same as making it happen. Yes, God can use His foreknowledge to bring about an outcome, but He doesn’t force anyone to violate their free wills. We could get really bogged down with thinking about all of these things, but I agree with what Moo wrote:
… we must not lose sight of Paul’s main point, namely, to as assure believers that god has a plan he is unfolding, one that provides fully for our future glory. He wants us to come away from this text not with theological questions but with a renewed sense of assurance: that the God who began a good work in us will indeed bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6) [Moo, 271].
The remainder of our chapter is beautiful as it describes God’s love and commitment to us.
Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
After everything Paul has told us about God and how He is involved in our lives and provides salvation through His Son, we should walk away with the knowledge and assurance that if God is for us, no one can be against us. In other words, man can only do so much to us, but they can never destroy God or truly be successful against us. Even if they destroy our physical bodies, they still have not won because in death we are still victorious in Christ because we belong to Him and we will continue to live.
If you have any doubts about how much God loves you and cares for you, Paul points out how God didn’t spare His Son. His Son is perfect, but we are not. So, if He was willing to give up His Son so we can have salvation, why would we ever doubt that God will not be there for us and do what is necessary for us? I also find it sad when Christians don’t have confidence in their salvation because God wants us to be saved and be in heaven with Him. He didn’t give up His Son so that we would be full of doubt. So, be confident in your salvation.
Romans 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.
All Christians are the elect. This is a term that Calvanist like to use to say there are predetermined people who have been selected by God, but I have already pointed out the fallacy of this.
Please note what Lynn Blair wrote regarding the question in verse 33:
God chooses to save those who choose to obey His will -- they are the "elect." He does not choose to save the disobedient. Who can lay a charge against the saved, God's elect? (1) God will not, for they are His faithful elect, and He has justified them. (2) Jesus will not, for He died for them and was raised again to insure this very justification (Rom. 4:25). (3) The Holy Spirit will not, because He has given us the governing factor of redemption -- the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2). (4) The devil cannot, for he is powerless against faithful Christians. (5) Evil men cannot, for they are just as impotent as is the devil as long as the righteous retain a firm faith. These verses abound with Divine assurance relative to redemption.<25> (Denton Lectures on Romans).
No one can bring a charge against us when we have been justified through Jesus by God. Not only that, we see that Jesus also makes intercession for us, which He does from His thrown. I think it’s important for us to realize how great it is to be a child of God and to fully appreciate the benefits that come with being one. If there is any doubt about how much God loves you or how strong that bond is, these next verses should remove that doubt.
Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The question is, who can separate us form the love of Christ? The short answer is, no one. Paul lists seven different things that include things from being destitute, persecuted, distressed, and even put to death, but none of these things will separate us from the love of Christ. Even in physical death, we will be conquerors through Jesus. As Paul points out, there is nothing on this earth, no power, or angels, or anything else that can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus. We need to own that and be inspired by this truth. Knowing that our God loves us this much and that nothing can break that love should make us feel blessed.
This is such a wonderful chapter despite it being used for false doctrine, and I hope you have found this chapter to be uplifting and it has shown you just how marvelous it is to be a child of God.