Summary: While we await our Restored Identity in God we experience: 1) The Groaning of Creation (Romans 8:19–22), 2) The Groaning of Believers (Romans 8:23–25), and 3) The Groaning of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26–27)
Right after Hurricane Henry, this week we see Hurricane Irma, which is an extremely dangerous Category 5 hurricane with 180 mph winds that hit Cuba, the Caribbean and continued to Florida. Once in a generation storms are happening with more and more regularity. People speculate that this change in weather is due to climate change, pollution, manufacturing, urban planning and various other factors. Regardless of the immediate reason, it is obvious that things are not functioning the way they should.
Humanity and Creation was originally created good. The sinful choice of Adam in rebellion to God, as representative for humanity, resulted in the fall (Gen. 3:17–19). Humanity now has to contend with pain, sickness, disease, famine, murder and war. All as a result of sin. But these effects are not restricted to humanity. Nature itself, suffered the effects of sin. All these effects for humanity also extended to the general physical realm as well. As a result, both nature and humanity await physical redemption, a Restored Identity, to what they were before the fall. The Holy Spirit is the firstfruits of this Restored Identity. He resides in us as a promise that restoration will come. What a thrilling salvation we have: free from the penalty of sin because Christ died for us (Romans 5); free from the power of sin because we died with Christ to the flesh Romans 6) and to the Law (Romans 7); and someday we shall be free from the very presence of sin when nature is delivered from bondage (Romans 8) ( Wiersbe, W. W. (1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (p. 389). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.).
But, what do we do when the world around us is in chaos? Although proper physical stewardship of ourselves and the planet is helpful, this is not where our actions should end. As we wait in patient hope for our Restored Identity, we need to call out for the Spirit to help us in our present weakness. Even when we don’t know exactly what to pray for, our faith trusts Him to intercede for us. Waiting does not me inactivity. Waiting is the active, patient faith of one who longs for our Restored Identity in God.
While we await our Restored Identity in God we experience:
1) The Groaning of Creation (Romans 8:19–22)
Romans 8:19–22 19 For the creation waits with eager longing 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 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (ESV)
The first groan is the personified lament coming from the created universe as it now exists in the corrupted condition caused by the Fall. The “eager/ anxious longing” (Apokaradokia) is an especially vivid word that literally refers to watching with outstretched head, and suggests standing on tiptoes with the eyes looking ahead with intent expectancy. The prefix apo adds the idea of fixed absorption and concentration on that which is anticipated. “The creation” is standing on tiptoes, as it were, as it “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God”. Jews were familiar with God’s promise of a redeemed world, a renewed creation. In behalf of the Lord, Isaiah predicted, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isa. 65:17). Jews anticipated a glorious time when all pain, oppression, slavery, anxiety, sorrow, and persecution would end and the Lord would establish His own perfect kingdom of peace and righteousness. Creation does not here include the heavenly angels, who, although created beings, are not subject to corruption. The term obviously does not include Satan and his host of fallen angels, the demons. They have no desire for a godly, sinless state and know they are divinely sentenced to eternal torment. Believers are not included in that term either, because they are mentioned separately in verses 23–25. Nor is Paul referring to unbelievers. The only remaining part of creation is the nonrational part, including animals and plants and all inanimate things such as the mountains, rivers, plains, seas, and heavenly bodies. Jews were familiar with such a personification of nature. Isaiah had used it when he wrote that “The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom” (Isa. 35:1), and later that “the mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Isa. 55:12).