Sunday, February 12, 2012

Romans 8:18-27 – Suffering for a purpose

[Romans 7 talks about the futility of a life serving the desires of the flesh. He ends that chapter by asserting that because Jesus is delivering him from this "body of death" that he has become spiritually minded. Then Romans 8 starts explaining why that is necessary and good.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

We finished that discussion last week, and we kind of skimmed over the last two verses. I want to revisit those here because that is the setup for this weeks topic.]

16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

[In the context of explaining our adoption and our joint inheritance with Jesus, Paul reminds us that Jesus passed on to glory through the way of suffering. Most people get pretty excited to learn they share an inheritance with the Prince of Peace, right up until they learn that the family business was service and suffering. But God counted the prize of our redemption as worthy of His suffering, because all of us together following Jesus accrues to the Glory of God. All the hero movies we watch have a setup to where the protagonist has to go though doubt, fear, and pain, before he can be revealed as the hero.

When we studied the book of Acts it was clear that Present "suffering" was very real for Paul and the early church. Persecutions from religious and government authorities, at different times, were active against the church. Paul himself, before his conversion, was the cause for some of the earliest Christians to suffer.

A standard atheist argument is that suffering means that god (little "g") is either uncaring or impotent. Either he doesn't care about our suffering, or he is powerless to do anything about it. So instead of ignoring this argument (because it is a powerful argument for those who doubt), lets dig into suffering and understand God's purpose, and what that means for us.]

From Suffering to Glory

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.

[One of the mysteries of the gospel is our future transformation from a corruptible mortal body to an incorruptible eternal form. Paul reasons that the sufferings that we endure now, are nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed in us.

Jesus endured the temporary to win the eternal and so should we. Our service and patience in enduring all the trials of this life represent a sound investment in future glory.

For Paul this is a powerful statement because this man knew suffering. He spent years in jail, he was beaten multiple times and literally left-for-dead, he was shipwrecked, snake bit, always opposed by other religions and philosophies, even under death threats and multiple murder conspiracies. On top of all this, at the time he was writing this he was old and sick. Yet for all that, he never implies that God is negligent or mean or week for allowing him to suffer in this way. Rather he reasons that the present suffering is nothing compared to future glory.]

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.

[50 years ago most physicists thought that we lived in a steady state universe that always had existed and always would exist. But there were some math problems in physics and cosmology that had to be fixed using a fudge factor called the cosmological constant. To some this fudge factor suggested an ever expanding universe that had a beginning and was never in a steady state. Fred Hoyle was a leading physicist who mocked this idea of a cosmic creation event by calling it the Big Bang, the point in time and space when everything that exists began to expand out from something called the singularity.

Unfortunately for Dr. Hoyle, scientist found evidence of this cosmic creation event, and science turned upside down with the realization that our universe is temporary. This expanding universe suffers from entropy, or heat loss that will eventually cause everything to decay into cold dead evenly spaces protons, known has the heat death of the universe.

1900 years before Fred Hoyle Paul by special revelation of God knew that all of creation toiled in futility of decay, and would require a re-creation to be delivered from the bondage of the temporary, to the glory of the eternal. Moreover he says that creation groans and complains like a woman in labor longing to see that transformation.]

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.

[Our adoption is not yet complete as long as we have a corruptible body, but we have the down-payment of that change called the Holy Spirit. He will guarantee the completion of that adoption for which we eagerly await.

Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Everyone who thinks that a genuine born again Christian could ever lose their salvation needs to account for this verse. The fact that all who trust in Jesus receive the Holy Spirit is not optional. Moreover that same Holy Spirit is the guarantee that our redemption will be completed by God for His own glory. Nothing about my salvation brings praise to me, including my ability to keep it; it all belongs to God. Jesus paid the price, God calls, we respond, and the Spirit seals the transaction, guaranteed!]

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.

[The New York Giants don't have to hope that they win the Super-bowl, because they have already seen that reality. But we hope for what we have not seen that is our eternal transformation. I did not wake up today in my Father's house; I did not eat today at my Father's table; I am not standing here in my glorified Christ-like body; but I believe and hope in all of these things. So we wait and hope with perseverance for that reality to appear.]

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.

[Even in our temporary suffering, we sometimes lose patience. God helps us in our weakness by the Holy Spirit who makes intercession for us. A groan is a sign of discomfort, at things that are not as they should be. Imagine the Holy Spirit in us seeing all the things that are not as they should be; and his response is to groan. Not a groan of complaint but of intercession urging God to help our weakness and infirmity, to complete His purpose in us.

(Present Suffering + hope + perseverance)
^ Holy Spirit = Future Glory

Thursday night for life group Suzie made this wonderful desert, called pumpkin cobbler; it was amazing. But if you were standing there impatiently as she made it and took a bite of the raw flower you would not think it was wonderful. If you ate some of the baking powder you would not say she is a great cook. Even the raw egg would not bring the response of the completed desert. But as those things are combined and cooked, the baking powder releases CO2 gas to make little air pockets so the crust is light and fluffy. And the heat of the oven chemically changes some of the carbs into sugars so it tastes crispy and sweet. That crust with the filling all warm and smelling good, topped with real whipped cream was glorious; but only because it endured the heat of the oven for the time required.


  1. Why would God subject the present world to the futility of being temporary?
  2. What is it about future glory that makes present suffering worthwhile?
  3. What can pearls teach us about perseverance and suffering?
  4. Why would it be good for us to approach life with the end in mind?

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