April 21, 2024


Passage: Romans 8:18-25

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 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. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
— Romans 8:18-25, ESV

The older I get, the more I make trips to see more doctors.  I now have an “ologist” for everything.  I don’t mind the doctors, they are quite good.  I appreciate the outcomes, less pain and better health.  The only thing I hate about the whole process is the waiting room.

First of all, it lives up to its name.  You are there to wait, and wait, and wait.  Then, there are people in it.  Not just ordinary people, but sick people.  Furthermore, the place is uncomfortable, you’d think rich doctors could afford finer furniture.  And there is always a big, loud, TV that loops those medical infomercials for hair removal or hemorrhoids or some other gross subject.  The minutes roll by like hours.

There is no back door or secret entrance for patients.  If you want to see the doctor, the only way in is through the waiting room.  There you wait, and wait, until your name is called, then let the healing begin!

Keep in mind the overarching theme of Romans 8 is glorification, a thing for which we wait.  Christians, justified by faith, sanctified by the Spirit, are guaranteed to be glorified by God and with God, forever.  The world we live in, as it is now, is no longer our real residence.  Heaven is the true home of every true believer in “the way, the truth, and the life,” our Lord Jesus Christ.

But for now, we are stuck in “the sufferings of this present time.”  This is the waiting room.

It is worth the wait.

“Sufferings of this present time” abound in the waiting room, but it is worth the wait.  Such sufferings, of which we will elaborate upon in the next point, “are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Let’s focus on the glory for a moment.  “Glory,” or doxa, is a frequently found word in the New Testament.  It is written 166 times in 149 verses.  We sing the “doxology” to give glory to God in every service.  The word is consistently translated “glory” to refer to God, or “glorified,” to speak of the final stage of salvation and the experience of God’s people when we see Him face to face.

As Christians, we are justified by faith in the gospel.  We are sanctified by faith, too, which results in faithfulness to Christ and His church.  Therefore, we must have faith in the promise of glorification, and believe it will be so wonderful that anything we have to endure on earth for the cause of Christ is worth the wait, for the “glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Such faith causes Christians to wait, to persevere, to not quit, to live “with patience,” which is Paul’s primary purpose in this paragraph.

The waiting is the hardest part.

Thanks to the late Tom Petty for this second subtitle.  I don’t think he was singing about the Christian faith, per se, though this part is true, “You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, the waiting is the hardest part.”

When you take Jesus Christ by faith as your Lord and Savior, it is easy.  God virtually gives you the faith (ref. Ephesians 2:8ff).  All you have to do is die (ref. Matthew 10:38-39, etc.).  And like Clint Eastwood’s Josey Wales said to the Chief, “Dying is easy, it's the living that’s hard.”

Living for Christ, in this waiting room of this present world, is hard.  It entails “suffering” and “groaning,” key words in this text which point to the real difficulties suffered by real Christians in real life.  But we are supposed to be special to God.  He justified us.  He is sanctifying us.  He’s going to glorify us.  Why in the world should suffering and groaning fall on us in this life?

We are fallen people living in a fallen world, and falling always hurts.  We are sinful people living in a sinful world, and sin always has dire consequences.  We are cursed people living in a cursed world, and the “Him who subjected it” to this curse is God (ref. Genesis 3).

God, whose sovereignty will be described in great detail in the ensuing chapters of Romans, decrees all things.  Recently we asked and answered the seventh article of The Westminster Shorter Catechism, “What are the decrees of God?  The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

God’s great decrees include election, creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.  Some struggle with God’s sovereignty over the fall, but the fall is truly an application of God’s sovereignty which allows for mankind’s freedom.  God granted freedom, mankind uses freedom to sin and rebel against God, sin causes “suffering,” “groaning,” and “pains” to people and the planet.

We Christians suffer along with everyone else.  We get cancer and die.  We are victims of violent crime.  We can’t have children.  We go through divorces.  We get deep wounds when we are just trying to help others.  We suffer, we groan, we endure pain.

Why does God allow it?  It is a consequence of our God-given freedom.  At the same time, it is a conspicuous act of God to show us this world is not our home.  It is just a waiting room.  It makes us grasp for something more, like the words in this text, “redemption,” “hope,” to be “saved,” and for “the glory that is to be revealed.”

Until the apocalypse (the actual word translated “revealed”), we suffer, groan, and wait.  But we don’t have to wait alone.

We wait together.  

Look at the plural nouns and pronouns used by Paul in seven out of the eight verses in this text: “us” (vs. 18), “sons” (and daughters, vs. 19), “children” (vs. 21), “we” (vs. 22), “we ourselves,” “we,” “sons” (and daughters), “bodies" (vs. 23), “we” (vs. 24), “we” (vs. 25).  These are your brothers and sisters by “adoption” and “redemption” (vs. 23).  These are the people in your waiting room.  The waiting room has a name.  It is called the church.

Christianity is a personal and a corporate relationship with Jesus Christ.  We need God.  We need each other, too, once God has found us and forged us into His church.  We need God and we need each other because life is hard, suffering does happen, groanings go up.  We need to worship, in such a way that gives glory to God, to remind us of the glory to come for us.  We need to feast on God’s word, so that we will live well pleasing to God on this side of glory.  We need to encourage one another, pray for one another, sometimes challenge one another, and work with one another to bring others into the safe harbor of the church.  Then, one by one, we watch one another walk out of the waiting room, through the door.

We know what we are waiting for.  

On the other side of the door waits no doctor or nurse with scalpel or syringe.  On the other side of that door waits no disease or death.  On the other side of that door is the fulfillment of every Christian’s and every Christian church’s “hope.”

“Hope” is the confident expectation of going through that door and seeing God our Savior in all of His glory.  Angels will abound.  So will the souls of all Christians who have gone on before us, many of whom we have known and loved on earth.

I watched one go through that door just recently.  On the day before she died, I knelt beside her bed and prayed.  She didn’t know I was there.  Her brain had already shut down.  Other organs would soon follow.  I could hear her breathing.  I could hear the rattle in her chest.  I’d heard it many times before.  It was suffering.  Its was groaning.  It is finished.

Now, she is in glory.  She’s awaiting our arrival, those of us justified by faith and sanctified by the Spirit.  Glory is God’s promise to us.  In the grand scheme of things, we’re almost there.  We’re just in the waiting room.

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