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Future Glory March 22, 2011

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Romans 8:18-27.

Summary: In this passage, Paul presents two reasons for the consistency between our status as God’s children and the sufferings that he mentions at the end of the previous passage. First, he asserts that these sufferings are insignificant when compared to our glorified state after Christ’s return. To illustrate the awesomeness of this glorified state, Paul states that the creation – consisting of the earth and all of its life forms apart from man – confidently and persistently waits for its appearance. Indeed, the creation is waiting confidently and persistently because God has subjected it to physical decay, yet that was accomplished in light of His ultimate objective of liberating it from that suboptimal state and allowing it to share in the glory that we will receive after Christ’s return. Moreover, the creation has been united in its longing for the revelation of our glorified state since the beginning of time; similarly, all Christians are united in their longing for their full adoption as God’s children, since we have “a foretaste of glory divine” in the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Second, we are sustained by God in the midst of our sufferings. In particular, Paul notes that since our full adoption as God’s children lies in the future, we must necessarily wait for this awesome event in a patient and joyful manner. Also, the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is invaluable, since we inherently do not know what to pray for in the midst of our sufferings; the Spirit joins us in our struggles and serves as an advocate to God on our behalf. Paul concludes by noting that the Spirit can even communicate our deepest desires – those that cannot be put into words – to God, and that God approves of the Spirit’s advocacy on our behalf since the Spirit knows God’s will and will mold our prayers accordingly.

Thoughts: The church has witnessed a significant debate regarding the proper interpretation of the word “creation” in this passage. In particular, Hodge notes the following possibilities:

  • the whole rational and irrational creation, including angels and everything else, animate and inanimate
  • the whole world, excluding angels, but inclusive of the irrational animals
  • the whole material creation, in a popular sense – as we say, all nature
  • the whole human race
  • the heathen world, as distinct from believers
  • the body of believers

According to Hodge, he and “the great majority of commentators in all ages” hold to the third position – that is, the “creation” refers to “the earth and all its myriad creatures except for man.” Hodge supports his position with several well-reasoned arguments, including appeals to several passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah that tell of the earth and its non-human life forms sharing in both the penalty of man’s sinfulness and man’s rejoicing in God and His goodness.

The critical role that the Holy Spirit plays in lives of believers is again highlighted in the latter half of this passage. In his commentary on verse 26, Hodge notes:

It represents the Spirit graciously taking on himself, as it were, a part of our sorrows to relieve us of their pressure…We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit teaches us. All true prayer is due to the influence of the Spirit, who not only guides us about what we should pray about but also gives us the appropriate desires and works within us to produce that faith without which our prayers are useless.

Clearly the Spirit sustains us in the midst of our sufferings, helping us express our feelings, difficulties and desires in prayers that please God. Over time, I have discovered that a well-developed, mature prayer life is necessary for truly experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in this regard. Relatively hasty prayers, unfortunately, tend to be superficial and essentially entail a one-way conversation between the believer and God. Meaningful prayers, though, entail some degree of struggling between the believer and the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit molds and shapes our prayers to conform to God’s will. I can attest that my most meaningful prayers have occurred during these wrestling bouts with God and His desires.

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