Waiting With Patient Hope
The Glory That Is Supposed To Be Shown In The Future
1. "I think that [our] current sufferings are trivial when compared with the glory that we're expecting to be revealed in us in the future," (Romans 8:18). [These] are Paul's words. They are the words of a man who knew suffering. The eyes of Paul are opened from the present filled with suffering unto a future shinning with glory. Lifting up our faces like Paul did, we too must open our eyes wide unto the future. Unless we do, we won't be able to stand up to hard times in any true sense. As long as we see only what's around us, all we can do is but moan "Why am I the only one suffering?" as we look at those who look so happy, or as we look at those less fortunate than ourselves [the best we can do is] to find comfort for ourselves in saying, "[At least] I'm not suffering as much as them." There is no real strength to endure suffering in making comparisons with others. Strength to endure suffering comes from a hope [that is] sure and certain.
2. So, where can one truly find a sure and certain hope? Is hope found in yourself? What have you lived with so far as your hope? Is it a hope that will never be lost no matter the times? Is it a hope that you can keep hanging onto even when you are [knocked] flat on a sick bed? Is it a hope that you can keep hanging onto even when you are old and even if your bodily functions decline little by little? When the end of your life has soon come near and you are on your death bed, will it be a hope that you can continue to hold onto? I would even venture to ask those who already have been living in the faith a long time. As believers, what have you lived with so far as your hope? I wonder, could you really call whatever it is you lived by as true "hope?"
3. What is Paul talking about here? He is talking here about "the glory that is supposed to be revealed to us in the future." By reading what is written directly before this, we will understand what this "glory" means. Please look beginning at verse fourteen. "All of [you] who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. You have [not received] the spirit that makes you fall in fear as slaves again but have received the spirit that makes a person a son of God. By this spirit we cry, 'Abba, o father.' By becoming one with our spirits this very spirit testifies that we are children of God. If we are [his] children, we are also heirs. [We] are heirs of God, more than that we are joint heirs with Christ. If we suffer with Christ, it is because we will receive this glory with him," (verses fourteen through seventeen). This is the contents of the hope that Paul is talking about.
4. Becoming a Christian doesn't mean you become a little better of a person or you start living with a special set of values. That's not what it means, rather it is to receive the spirit that makes you a son of God and to live as a son of God. That is, we are to be led by the spirit, we are to call out to God with "O father," and live with God the Father of Jesus Christ as our very own father. You could [just as well] call that [the same as] becoming the brothers of Christ or [as] becoming joint heirs. Therefore, anything Christ has received we will also receive. Paul says, "If we suffer with Christ, we will also receive this glory with him." The suffering of Christ is the cross. The glory of Christ is the resurrection. "To receive this glory with him" means to say that we will be made exactly into the state of Christ's resurrection. We too will be transformed into the same glorious figure as the resurrected Christ. The end of a human being seems to be something that is altogether way far from that of glory. But, this figure of a decaying corpse is not the final way we are to be. The exact same glory that has been revealed in Christ is "the glory that we're expecting to be revealed in us in the future," and that is the ultimate way we will be, our ultimate figure.
5. Let's move our attention down a few verses beginning with verse twenty-three. In regard to the hope that we should hold onto, he makes the following statements: "Not only the creation [is waiting], but while we groan in our hearts, we too, who have received the first fruits of the 'spirit,' are waiting in hope to be made sons of God, that is to say, to be redeemed from our bodies. We will be saved by this hope. Hope towards what is visible is not hope. Can anyone really hope for what he or she actually sees? Since we are hoping for that which is invisible to the eye, we are waiting with patient hope," (verses twenty-three through twenty-five).
6. What was termed before as to "receive glory" is put here into the new terminology of to "be made sons of God, that is to say, to be redeemed from our bodies." "To be redeemed from our bodies" is not an expression we hear very much. The word "redeem" is a word that means to free a slave or a captive. When the scriptures speak here about "redeeming the body" it means the same as saying that our bodies are in a state of being captive. By what are we held captive? It is by sin and death. Therefore, even Christians will also sin with their bodies, and even Christians will die with their bodies. Even Christians do not escape the suffering that includes sin and death.
7. But, we have a hope. Even though we suffer and groan [with all created beings] we still await in the hope. We await in the hope that "our bodies will be redeemed." We will soon receive the resurrection body, which is set free from its captivity, which is set free from the chains of sin and death. The time is coming when we as completely free sons of God will praise the work of God's salvation.
Receiving The First Fruits Of The 'Spirit'
8. But come on now, on what grounds does Paul speak about hope? On what grounds does he speak about to "be made sons of God, that is to say, to be redeemed from our bodies?" Groundless words of hope are only nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are never more than soothing words [for the baby in us]. Even if soothing words can supply a momentary support for our minds, they do not result in true deliverance.
9. Of course, Paul is not speaking soothing nursery rhyme type language having no grounds [in reality]. His grounding for [his words] is Christ. It is Christ's cross and resurrection. For Paul who wrote this epistle and for the Roman disciples who read this epistle, the common ground upon which they could speak to one another of hope is Christ. It is a major assumption [between them]. But now, I would like for us to take note of another fact, [which is] the words that are in verse twenty-three of "we too, who have received the first fruits of 'the spirit', ..."
10. "The first fruits" is the first harvest of the year. At the first time of the work of the harvest, which is worked out over a few times, the entire surface of the field is not yet fully colored over [indicating its readiness for harvest]. But, as they think of when it will soon all be colored in golden hues, the first fruits (which is the first part cut down) will be carried to the temple and offered up to God. That is, just this small quantity of the first fruits is a sign, an announcement beforehand that the time of the complete harvest is soon to arrive, and Paul says that the Spirit of God which we have already received is this "first fruits."
11. As it is written that "as we groan in our hearts we await for the hope to be made sons of God, that is to say, to be redeemed from our bodies," it is certainly in the future when this will become true. In other words, it is not yet fulfilled. But still on the other hand, [the Bible], which I quoted earlier, says it like this beginning in verse fourteen; the text says, "All of [you] who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. You ... have received the spirit that makes a person a son of God. By this spirit we cry, 'Abba, o father.'" At first glance this description of things may look like it is contradictory. But, this is the experience of the believer.
12. In its full meaning "being made a son of God" is in the future. But, we are allowed to begin living our daily lives calling [God] already right now "Abba, o father." Our lives as sons of God have begun though not perfectly complete. It is like the first fruits. It is an experience of just a small amount. But, in the first fruits the full harvest will continue. It is an announcement ahead of time of it all completely coming in. That's the faith life [we live as] given to us by the Holy Spirit.
13. In the same way, "the redemption of the body" is in the future as well. Complete freedom from sin has still not come into fulfillment, and neither has complete freedom from death come into fulfillment. But, even still though, we do experience in our day to day lives in this world a freedom from sin through the Holy Spirit. Also, this body is still as ever worthy of death, but we have already begun to experience the resurrection life in this day to day life. In another epistle Paul has put it like this, "Even though our 'outer man' has been declining, our 'inner man' is being renewed each and every day," (Second Corinthians 4:16). This kind of thing is partial, incomplete, and may not be more than a small experience for us. But, the complete harvest continues in the first fruits. We begin to experience "the body being redeemed" as the first fruit take-in of the harvest.
14. This is how we are able to say that "we too, who have received the first fruits of 'the spirit'"; it is on the common foundation upon which Paul and the Roman disciples were able to speak to one another of their hope. As we too stand upon this same foundation, we can speak of the same hope that Paul [had]. We can state that "We are being delivered by this same hope." Just as the farmer anticipates a field colored totally golden ripe while it is yet to be seen, we can say, "Since we hope in that which is unseen, we wait with great patience."
15. Of course, in regard to this we could also state the opposite. When we lose the day to day life of living as sons of God in this world now, that is, when we lose the day to day life of worshipping God and calling to God "Abba, o father," we definitely end up not being able to say that "We are waiting with hope ... to be made sons of God, that is, for our bodies to be redeemed." A person loses his or her hope also along with a concrete specific day to day life of faith. Therefore, we must hold in high regard the fact that we "have received the first fruits of 'the spirit.'"
16. One final word. I didn't touch upon it today, but Paul is not just thinking here about the deliverance of humanity. Coming into his field of vision, he is speaking of the deliverance of the entire created world. The sin of humanity doesn't cause suffering on just the world of humans. The sin of humanity extends to the entire created world and is a harm that causes destruction to [the whole wide world]. Thus then, already two thousand years ago, long before we saw the environmental destruction that has come through the hand of humankind, Paul was hearing the groaning voice in the world of nature. As a result of that, when humanity is delivered from sin it will also be deliverance for the entire created world. Therefore, Paul wrote that "Creation is waiting earnestly with hope for the appearing of the sons of God," (verse nineteen). We [might be] groaning all the time with all of creation, but we await in hope for the time of deliverance along with the whole creation, [and we do so] with a sure and certain hope.