Paul moves from suffering in Creation to discussing the meaning of suffering in our personal experience. We persevere in Our Hope. Romans 8 – Part 8
Romans 8:23-25 (NKJV)
23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
We too suffer (or groan, which is a euphemism for suffering) under the burden of the curse that God put on the Earth. Specifically, that curse as it affects our bodies. We feel the weight of the evil that affects all Creation, we feel it personally. You suffer sickness. The next time you get sick, know that you are having a reality check connected to the curse that God pronounced. You’re experiencing it in a very tangible way. You don’t have to be sick to feel it. If you have a little joint pain, or if you have to toil at something and it is difficult, and you sweat, that’s the curse, or If you have a weakness, in some context, physical, emotional, intellectual. Are you getting older? Are you going to die one day? They are all effects of the curse.
Paul says we know these things, we experience these things, but notice he says we experience these things even though we have the first fruits of the Spirit. That term “first fruits” refers back to the requirements of the Law given to Israel. In the Law, for a farmer to provide his proper service of worship to the Lord, he was to offer back to the Lord the first fresh produce he pulled from his field every year he harvested it. It was a way of acknowledging that God provided everything to him, so he was accepting God’s grace and mercy by giving a little bit back. It’s where the concept of tithing camel. Paul uses that term to refer to the deposit God has made of the Holy Spirit in us. That’s God’s first fruits to us because it is just a down-payment on what He has planned for us. Think about this, if His own Spirit is a down-payment how big is the final payment? Persevere in our hope
He is the first fruits of glory, and Paul says you and I have that first fruit, we have the Spirit in us. He says despite that; nevertheless, we will suffer. This one verse is the silver bullet that puts to death the prosperity Gospel or any version of that lie which maintains that God wants you to be happy, prosperous and free of sickness, and so on. Paul just said in a nutshell that’s not true, at least not while we live on this Earth in this body. He says even though we have this relationship with the first fruits of the Spirit, we suffer. Which is the way of saying this is the natural state, even for the Christian. We groan within ourselves. We know that feeling. Even believers will have this experience. It is one that God has ordained for all humanity because the curse affects all of humanity.
Just as God brought childbirth pains to women and brought the Creation under a curse and brought Jesus the pain of the cross, He brings us suffering too. That is the nature of our state. But like Creation itself, we bear up under the curse knowing that in a day to come we will experience the redemption of our body, Paul says. That’s what living with eyes for eternity means. It means not fixing your gaze on the problems or the temptations of this life to the exclusion of appreciating what the Lord is offering for us in eternity. Instead, what we are to do is, live in the midst of suffering now without allowing that suffering to define us or to obscure our hope for what is coming in the eternal. Persevere in our hope
To often Christians respond to this basic theology, this truth, that says keep your eyes on heaven, don’t worry about your problems and this idea of not letting the world grind you down. They will hear that and respond to it with a “yes, yes that’s true. Who can say it’s not if you know the Bible you will know that’s true. They will say it in a kind of “yes, BUT…” mentality. They say, yeah we agree that the eternal place of our glory should be our focus and heaven is all that and so on, but they will say quickly after that, “but I have to still deal with my problems. I still got things causing me issues that I have to contend with.” Persevere in our hope
Of course, you have to deal with what life brings you. Christ had to deal with the cross. Things happen. But look at how Christ dealt with it, For Christ, the suffering of the cross wasn’t a problem to be solved. It was an experience to submit to for the good things God intended to use it. That’s a world of difference between saying oh yes I need to have my eyes on eternity, but you don’t understand my situation. That’s still somebody who got their eyes down as they claim to have them up. Christ went to the cross acknowledging the necessity of it and embracing it, though it was a terrible thing to suffer. That should be the everyday approach to concerns, that we have too. They are not problems to be solved, even as we must work to address them in one way or another. Instead, they are experiences to be submitted to in a trust that God is using them to produce something good for eternity.
You can endure your sufferings whether you can work them out or fix them or not. You will experience them with the perspective that understands they have eternal significance. More importantly, we don’t begin to worry that they are a threat to our relationship with God because we know God has sourced them. We have been saved, Paul says, by a hope which is, Christ will raise us from the dead just as He was raised from the dead. That’s the hope we are talking about. And that hope is based on a promise God has made, so we take God at His word, He is trustworthy. So we have faith in His promise, and that’s our hope for resurrection. But it is still your hope because you haven’t seen it happen yet.
Therefore, Paul reminds us in verse 24 that we shouldn’t be surprised that we don’t see good things while we’re waiting for our redemption. Because of the nature of what faith requires. Imagine if the plan of God was structured so that at the point of your death you were immediately resurrected and jettison off to heaven like Elijah. Well, who after that would ever need faith. Your hope doesn’t require faith anymore, it’s just a matter of timing. But… God has purposely delayed the moment of our resurrection until the time in which He does it for everyone in the same instant. So for all generations of Christians, hope is still required. Faith is still the object. You can’t say you’ve seen resurrection. Not in the sense of the ultimate resurrection into a glorified body. We are all still waiting for that moment.
Paul says once you see it, it does not require faith anymore. That’s why you are hoping for things in this life. That is freedom from suffering, freedom from trials, all of those good things that we hope. That doesn’t require faith when that becomes the focus of your thinking, the irony is when you are hoping for things that you can see, it doesn’t require faith and if they don’t materialize you give up hope. Only those who are hoping for things that cannot be seen has perseverance. You persevere for the hope of eternal life because you are not expecting to see it until the time faith is no longer required. But if you are hoping for riches, well that hope is fleeting because as soon as you don’t see it showing up in your bank account, you give up. Persevere in our hope
When we demand God to present good things to us now, like those who preach the prosperity Gospel will tell you, we stop operating in faith by definition. Because Paul says, who hopes for what he already sees or has? You see what money can do. You see from where it comes. You see how people obtain it. No faith is required. It is a lot like playing the lottery. So in truth, those of faith should expect to be without what we need in the body now. We should not be expecting to get our good things in this life. We should expect to see them only in the eternal life. Don’t trade your eternal hope for something of this world because Paul says that isn’t faith any longer. But for the person who remains fixed in that eternal hope, who lives with eyes for eternity, that person will persevere. Persevere in our hope
“The author’s biblical interpretations and conclusions presented in this document rely on original teaching used by permission of Verse By Verse Ministry International (VBVMI). The author’s views may not represent the views of VBVMI, it’s Directors or staff. Original VBVMI teaching may be found at http://www.vbvmi.org.”
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