The Hope of Glory
August 6, 2023

The Hope of Glory

Passage: Romans 8:18-25


For the past several weeks, we’ve been steadily working through the 8th chapter of Romans. Romans is a letter written to Christians in Rome by the Apostle Paul. This letter is intended to help us understand the full picture of how God’s salvation works. Romans 8 so far has been especially focused on showing how the Spirit works in those who have trusted in Jesus Christ.

When we read a letter like this, though, it may be tempting just to start talking about ideas in the text – ideas that remain in a world out there – ideas that might sometimes seem confusing to us, detached from us, or irrelevant to daily situations – ideas that we don’t really have to reckon with.

But if you’re familiar with the Bible, you’ll notice that the Bible doesn’t just talk about abstract ideas. Instead, the Bible is interested in life. The Bible is written to show how God has engaged with real, live people and circumstances throughout the ages, and we’re supposed to recognize we have a place in this story. God isn’t just a cold, ivory-tower sort of guy who operates in the world of ideas. But he’s unfolding living, breathing history toward an ultimate goal – and he wants you and I to see that this is our story – or I should say, that we’re a part of His story.

So tonight, with God’s help, I want to help you catch a glimpse of where God’s story is headed – where we’re headed – and how that relates to our present circumstances.

I’ll unpack our text under two basic points: First, the Reality of our Current Groaning. And Second, the Reality of our Future Glory. These two points are reflected in verse 18, when the apostle Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time – current groaning – are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us – future glory.”


Current Groaning

So first, the Reality of Our Current Groaning:

Verse 18 notes that we have sufferings to deal with in this present time. And it’s worth keeping in mind here who Paul’s talking to. He’s speaking to ordinary, faithful Christians – people like you and me. Paul isn’t teaching them that suffering will go away if they just have enough faith when they pray. Paul isn’t claiming that they can have riches, comfort, and freedom from disease if they just name and claim God’s promises. Instead, Paul recognizes that relief from suffering is not a here and now expectation, but an upcoming and future expectation. In fact, Paul asserts that Christians will normatively have lives of suffering, because they’ll be following on the same path that Jesus walked – a path which involves, among other things, loneliness, humiliation, persecution, pain, abandonment from close friends and family, seasons of financial insecurity – in other words, a path which involves suffering.

The ongoing presence of suffering and evil in the world doesn’t mean that God’s saving power for you and I is deficient. It doesn’t mean that Christ’s death on the cross is ineffective or incomplete.  Instead, it just means that God is waiting to finalize everything that Christ accomplished. The saving work of Christ has been implemented – it’s been inaugurated – verse 15 from last week affirms that we’ve received the status of adopted Sons of God, and verse 23 here affirms we have received the firstfruits of the Spirit – but a day is yet coming when we will have and experience these things in fullness and finality.

Since there are some aspects of salvation that we have already, and others that are not yet ours, many Bible scholars have referred to the Christian life as the Already, but Not Yet. We’re already declared righteous in God’s eyes because we belong to Christ, but we’re not yet fully free from the defilement of unrighteous thoughts and deeds. We’re already set free from the enslaving power of sin, but we’re not yet free from its presence and influence in our hearts and minds. We’re already given new life in the Spirit, but we have not yet received resurrection for our bodies.

So as Christians, what does it look like for us to live in this season of the Already but Not Yet? To start, verse 23 says that we groan. In verses 19-22, though, the apostle Paul explains that we aren’t the only one’s groaning. The whole creation groans, because when the first representative of humanity disobeyed and entered into futility, God subjected the whole creation to futility as well. And ever since, the creation has been groaning in its fallen, disintegrating condition. The creation has been subject to death and decay, and it will remain in bondage to these things until God intervenes – until God at last performs his special work of new creation.

And we groan, too. Even though we have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even though we have rich promises from God, we still live in a world where all is not right. The passions of our flesh are constantly at war with our new desires for godliness. The world is still in conflict over human rights and moral rightness. We’re overwhelmed with anxious thoughts. Our hearts are bitter and depressed. We’re afflicted by headaches, backaches, stomachaches, and all types of ailments and diseases. From outside us and from within us, body and soul, we struggle to find rest. And in all these things, we groan.

Yet the reason Christians groan isn’t just because they’re experiencing pain and suffering. Christians also groan when they remember God’s plan for their future. They groan with longing for the good things to come. Verse 23 says that we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly AS WE WAIT EAGERLY for adoption as sons, for in this hope we were saved.

Our groaning goes together with our eager waiting – and with our hope. But I want to slow down and explain what it means to wait eagerly and to hope, because it’s easy to misunderstand what’s being said here.

For one thing, when we talk about waiting, it may sound like a passive action. But imagine two different school boys sitting at a bus stop. One boy is leaning back on a bench, his eyes are just half open – he’s not really aware what’s going on around him, but the other boy is pacing back and forth, standing up on his tiptoes to look down the road, preparing himself – making sure that he’s ready for the arrival of the bus. In one respect we could say that both of them are waiting. But when the text says here that we’re waiting eagerly for adoption as sons – the word refers to someone who’s looking out, who’s watching, who’s expectantly anticipating that something significant will soon occur. So when Christians wait, it isn’t passive. Our waiting is earnest, our heart is affected, our life is engaged.

But we also need to carefully define the word hope. Today in America when we speak about hope we’re often talking about wishful thinking. But when the Bible speaks about hope, it refers to something we’re expecting to see, but something we just don’t see yet. You can see this in verse 24. We were saved in the hope that the Sons of God will be revealed, and that we’ll experience the full redemption of our bodies. For the Christian, these things don’t fall in the category of wishful thinking. Instead, these are things we’re confident about. We have the Holy Spirit as a down-payment and guarantee that these things are sure to come. So the hope we have as Christians isn’t a wishing that something might happen, but a waiting for things we know will happen.

But the things we hope for are still unseen. We’re still living in the Already, but Not Yet. And so we groan. Christians groan because of our hope – because we’re eagerly waiting for the fulfillment of God’s rich promises. You’ll notice, then, Christians don’t just groan because of their pain – they don’t just groan because the world is infected with injustice, immorality, and death. In fact, you don’t have to be a Christian to groan over these things. Everyone recognizes that the world is broken – that everything isn’t at exactly as it ought to be. But Christians also have a special type of groaning: A groaning of anticipation. This second type of groaning is something non-Christians won’t know anything about. They may have wishful thinking about what comes after death – but they won’t have confidence. They won’t have hope. They’ll groan from fear, from anxiety, from uncertainty – but they won’t groan with confident longing to see the grand finale of God’s story. Christians, though, will groan because they know God, and love Him; they long to see His promises fulfilled; and they yearn to see his glory.


Future Glory

This brings me to my second point (this point will be briefer): The reality of future glory. You’ll notice in our text that there are three different parties that are looking forward to the future. Verse 19 tells us that the creation waits with eager longing. The end of verse 20 tells us that the one who subjected creation to futility, referring to God – that he did so in hope – that he did so with a future expectation of something good. And verses 23 and 24 tell us that we who have the spirit of God are looking forward to the future. And all three parties are eagerly awaiting the same oncoming reality: the revealing of the glory of the Sons of God.

Right now, when we look at ourselves – when we look at each other – we just see ordinary looking people. (The only exception, perhaps, being my wife – she’s pretty extraordinary). But there’s a day coming when the true identity of every Christian will be revealed! Every Christian will be publicly recognized as part of the royal family. Brothers and sisters, God will clothe you and I with immortal glory – we’ll be granted the happiness and authority and beauty and purity and security that belong forever to the children of God. That coming day is so great, so other-worldly in its scope and splendor, I don’t have words that are weighty and wonderful enough to tell you what that day will be like.

But if you’re a Christian, I want you to know with certainty – that day is yours. Wait patiently, even when the world beats you up day after day. Because, God wants you to remember – the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

So as we groan in the present, let’s groan with hope. For God has prepared future glory for each of his children, and we will not be disappointed.

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