Summary: The Spirit encourages us to march onward to victory through our struggles.
The Spirit Who Groans With Us
When Yahweh comes to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, He relates that he had heard the groaning of the Children of Israel in their cruel bondage under Egyptian taskmasters. He proceeded to send Moses as the means of delivering them. Yahweh felt His peoples pain, and deliverance was on the way. There has been much groaning among God’s people to this day. How do we know that God is still listening? Let us take a look at Romans 8:22-27 for the answer.
The passage begins with the statement that all of creation is groaning in agony even to this day. This puts our groaning in a wider context. Paul is probably referring to the curse that came upon creation as a result of Adam’s fall. Adam’s fall put creation into bondage. We are seeing some of this in the eruption of the volcano in Hawaii. There are the groanings of earthquakes. There is erosion and other man made ravages of earth. These are just a few of the groanings. And the human race in Adam is the cause of all this. As creation fell with Adam who had been placed in charge of it, creation too would need to be redeemed from sore bondage. Paul has already compared Adam and Christ. Jesus came to undo the curse under which humanity and all of creation fell. And if we read where it says where sin abounded, grace abounded exceedingly more to mean that Jesus more than undid the curse, then we realize that creation will be more than restored. It shall in the end be vastly better than it was before the fall.
Paul adds the believer’s groaning to this groaning of all creation. The transition is very emphatic here in the Greek which tells us that as true as the groaning of all creation is, the groaning of the believer is central to what Paul is saying. He Says “We ourselves who have the firstfruit of the Spirit groan within ourselves while waiting for our adoption as children, which is the redemption of our bodies.” This brings up a difficulty because some would ask, “aren’t we redeemed when we are saved? Why are we groaning for something which is already a relity?” This is a fair question, but if we understand salvation and redemption as a process, the difficulty goes away. It is true that everything necessary for our redemption was finished in the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. The price has been paid. But it is equally true that we have not yet attained the full realization of this redemption in our lives. We still grow old. If the Lord tarries, we shall all die.. We get sick. We suffer from evil. Too often we hurt others as well. So we go on groaning for the day that the process of redemption is finished. We know that this will surely be. As it is written: “He who began a good work in you shall complete it in the day of Jesus Christ.”
Another thing that needs to be explained here is adoption, which is paired with our redemption. The use of “sonship” is used on several occasions by Paul to describe our relationship with God. Jesus is a natural Son of the Father. We are not. There are those who think that everyone is a child of God. This is not so. Notice that Paul says nothing about the groaning of unbelievers. They are God’s creatures, but not His children at all. John tells us that one who believes is given the authority to become the child of God. This means that the believers’ status is changed from “not my people” to “the people of the living God.” But the nature of our relation after redemption is not the same as that of Jesus. Our relationship stands as adopted and always shall be. This isn’t bad news, however. If Paul is referring to Roman adoption, the adopted child had inalienable rights. Once adopted, the child had the same rights as a natural member of the family. A father could always disown and disinherit a natural son, but never an adopted son. An adopted son also knows that his adopted father chose him from his free will. It should be comfort to us when we realize that the God who is under no compulsion to take us home has freely chosen to do so.
The proof that we are adopted is the presence of the Holy Spirit. Here The Spirit is called the firstfruit. And if it proof, then the Holy Spirit is not an unperceived guest. How could we have assurance if the Spirit works silently in us? We need to be constantly assured that we are His. Another word for firstfruit is the word “earnest.” When one makes an offer to buy real estate, they place earnest money down which is a part of the purchase price. It is of the same substance as the entire price. So what we have from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a part of what we shall later receive in full. We don’t have possession of the property, but the earnest is the proof of good intention on the part of the buyer. In our case, God is our redeemer who has purchased us. The Spirit is proof of His good intentions for us. He also has purchased creation back and will share this more than restored creation with us. As children we are and have a living inheritance.