Suffering & Glory pt 2
I finish up my prior post on suffering. As a pastor I spend much of my time talking to people who suffer in various ways. Over a meal a few days ago I told one person that I am convinced that all Christians enter into eternity bearing many scars–both within and without. Thankfully God does not leave us without instruction on how to deal with suffering. Even more wonderful is how He uses suffering in wonderful ways for our good and His glory. This second part is dealing with Romans 8.
Argument #2, The glory must be worth the suffering because all believers long for it (23-25). By saying “And not only this. . .” Paul shows that there is a progression in his argumentation. Not only is creation groaning, but we too! The new creation and the glory that shall come must be amazing because even we, ourselves are groaning for that day. In fact, I can say that a key mark of a true believer is that there is a desire to be finally free of this body that is dead through sin. But the groaning that we do here is not a groaning under sin, but rather it is like creation in the pangs of childbirth.
It is also a groaning that comes because we have the Holy Spirit within us. Note that phrase, “first fruits of the Spirit.” The firstfruits refers to the Jewish custom of bringing the first of the harvest to the temple and offering it to God. This consecrated the whole harvest, and it carries with it the thought that there will be later fruits. But this is also different in that in the Old Testament the word ‘firstfruits’ referred to what we would give to God, with the understanding that God would give us the rest of the harvest. But Paul is saying that God has given us the Spirit and it is a foretaste of what is to come. It is similar to the idea in Ephesians 1:13-14 “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Paul closes up his argument in verses 24-25. God has not let us enjoy these blessing right now. Therefore, beloved, we need to be content with that reality. We have, at times, little tastes of the glory to come, but it is never in its fulness. We were saved (vs 24), past tense, but this salvation involves a forward looking aspect. For though by faith we believe we are saved, the fulness is not ours to enjoy at this time. We still suffer under the effects of a fallen world. And therefore we live with an expectant hope in that day that is to come. It is only as we grow in looking toward the New Creation that we will endure well in the here and now. May God enlarge our hearts and minds in anticipation to that day.