Summary: Three groanings
October 10, 2010
We’re back in the book of Romans eight. Last time we read that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because we’ve been set free from the law of sin and death; our sin debt has been paid!
We finished up last time with the fact that we’re children and heirs of God “if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him (8:17).
There’s a certain correlation between suffering with Christ and being glorified with Christ. This week we return to this theme of suffering and glorification:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18, NASB).
Now, this is a pretty big statement, so I want to take a minute to look at how Paul might define suffering:
Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches (II Corinthians 11:24-28).
And yet all of these, he says, are “not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” They’re not even worthy to be compared!
Imagine that I ran a lemonade stand on my block for one weekend. I have a lot of fun, and I make a little money, but it’s nothing too serious. Then on a trip to New York I run into Donald Trump. I strike up a conversation and start bragging about all my knowledge gained from running my lemonade stand…he’s not going to be impressed by that. In fact, he’ll probably just walk off thinking I’m crazy. My business knowledge isn’t even worth comparing to his.
What we go through on earth might seem tough, but it’s a lemonade stand compared to what we’ll experience in our glorification! It’s not even worthy of comparison.
I’ve heard people talk about their faith being shaken because of some trial or hardship, and I don’t mean to undermine their suffering, but what’s really so bad that it could take away your hope of future glory?
He tells the Corinthians:
We do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
In the big, eternal picture, suffering and hardship really aren’t all that important. You might find out tomorrow that you have cancer, but, really, so what? Paul calls it a light and momentary affliction. I don’t mean that we don’t cry out to God or that we don’t mourn, but a trillion years from now in our timeless existence, these things won’t even be recalled.
Think about this: you were born dying. You’ve known for a long time that this body will pass away. We have to learn see life through the perspective God has taught us and then we’ll begin to live like “the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Here we find the first of three “groans.” Creation metaphorically groans as it waits for redemption.
It was subjected to futility when Adam introduced death through sin at The Fall. You’ll remember that the very ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin (Gen. 3:17), and everything has been ruined since.
Paul describes all creation as eagerly waiting for the sons of God to be revealed so that it too will be set free from the law of sin and death. Like a woman in labor, it waits eagerly through pain for the moment of joy.