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The Bible Teacher's Commentary
Romans 8:18-25 is an introduction to the last section of Romans 8, Conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:26-39). Romans 8:18-25 discusses the place suffering has in the lives of God's people. It is precisely for this reason Paul later moves on in Romans 8:26-39 and discusses God's great plan of salvation and His love for us.
Chapters 1-5 of Romans inspire us to think of the great blessings that reside in Abraham’s children of faith (Romans 4) and in Adam (Romans 5), but Paul knows suffering rather than what we think of blessing might precede us. In Romans 8:18-25 we find that the Christian will likely face difficult
situations. There is a pattern very clearly set in verses 17-18.
18 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. 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.
20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.
24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:18-25)
In Romans 8:18-25 we find that the Christian will likely face difficult life situations. Along with the freedom of a new life also come the transition period into this life. Verse 21 and 23 carefully explain this:
"The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God" and
"But also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body."
In other words, there is a parallel experience going on between creation and the children of God. There is the ultimate plan of freedom alongside the distressful life experiences. Although we are the Lord's, we still are affected by the sin-stained world. As Christians we are caught in the frailty of our human bodies. They have not experienced redemption even though our souls have. Our real potential is hidden behind the weakness of our human bodies.
For this reason hope well characterizes our lives. We inherently know and long for the full realization of all of God’s promises.There is a pattern very clearly set in verses 17-18.
Romans 8:17 starts by connecting suffering with glorification. "...If indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:17).
Paul is addressing God's children living on the edge of two worlds, one group of people are caught in the web of sin and death and the other have stepped into life and light (see Romans 5). Christians, however, like those bound in darkness are still suffering even though they have escaped the curse of sin through justification. Perhaps Paul sensed the impending persecution against Christians. In any case, the Roman Christians greatly suffered and needed a theology to take them through.
Conclusion: We should not therefore be surprised when God sometimes takes what is perfect and subjects it to a humble status so that a greater good might be accomplished. Take hope! This stage of suffering is merely a transitional period.
We should remember that it is man that sinned. Because of God's grace both the creation and Christ Jesus suffered. If man did not sin, then both the creation and Christ would not have suffered at all. But somehow through God's amazing grace in the face of man's awful sin, a greater good results!
"For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard" (Palms 22:24).
"The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!" (Psalms 22:26).
"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28, along with the former verses on adoption and the latter ones on calling, all become our spiritual backbone. The truth in this verse is incredible! God can and will work out all things for a higher good. No matter what sickness, shortness of life, poverty, persecution, difficulty in life, family rejection or even horrible physical features we might have, we can fully trust God to bring about a greater good. In other words, in His wise providence, the trials are designed to further His good purpose.
Trials are to be expected. Suffering is part of this life. We are to keep our faith and even strengthen our trust in Him during times of trials for God will create a greater good out of it.
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