Monday, January 1st: Catch-Up Day
Because we combined verses 16-17, you get one additional catch-up day if you need it. If you are already caught up spend some time in specific prayer for your own spiritual walk and the walk of a friend at GCF.
Tuesday, January 2nd: Review Day Romans 8:10-17
This was a larger portion of text, so as you go through the passage as a whole you may notice more connections and themes than you did in your more confined study. How are these verses relating to one another? How is Paul’s argument developing? In what ways does this text challenge or strengthen your life/thoughts?
Wednesday, January 3rd: Romans 8:18
When I was a student at the University of Montana it was nearly impossible to get good seats in the student section unless you arrived four hours early to wait in line. My friends and I were huge football fans, so for four years we always were the first ones there. Snow. Sun. Wind. Rain. We were there.
This was escalated even more for the Montanan/Montana State game. We knew that people would to line up before us, and so we decided to spend the night in front of the stadium gate. It was the second to last weekend in November. In Montana. At the mouth of the windy Hellgate Canyon. As we laid down our sleeping bags on the exposed concrete slab, I drew the short straw of being the outermost man on the windy side of the squad. I have never been so cold.
At one point I woke up around two in the morning and walked around campus looking for an open building so that I could run my hands under some warm water. Inside of my mummy bag I eventually took of my shirt and used it to plug the small hole (also my only source of air…) covering my face. However, as foolish and cold as this little stunt was, neither I nor my friends regretted it. It was worth it for a silly football game (which the Griz won, largely in part to our team spirit I’m sure).
In Romans 8:18 Paul is taking this small experience I’ve just referenced, saturating it with the glory of God and elevating it to cosmic levels. In verse 17 Paul gave a challenging promise that those who suffer with Jesus will also be glorified with Jesus. Now he continues saying, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
In this short text we see two experiences defined by two time periods. These experiences Paul says, are not to be compared due to the overwhelming nature of the latter hope. First Paul wants us to examine the suffering we know in this present time.
In all of Romans 8 Paul has made a connection to our identity as a Christian and the required implications of that. To be Christian is to act, think, and do things according to the Spirit. We may use language like, “nominal” or “cultural” Christians but Paul doesn’t leave room for empty titles. You either are a Christian growing in your thoughts and actions, or you are not a Christian. To those who fall into this first category, Paul’s last two verses have made it clear that you will suffer.
We will suffer because Christ suffered. Jesus himself said that in following him one must pick up his own cross (Luke 9:23) and expect that others will hate you for it (1 John 3:13). Not all of our suffering we encounter is due to the fact that we are Christians. We might suffer because we sinned, or because other people have sinned around us. But the point Paul is making here is that the expectation for Christians is that we will suffer because of Jesus.
To never face suffering for our faith is to not have faith. Even if we never suffer at the hands of other people, our faith should leave us to deny our own body and suffer in our fight against sin. It is a sobering and revealing exercise for one to examine where this affliction is or is not in one’s life.
The word I love in this passage is the word translated in the ESV as “consider.” The word, translated other places as reckon, count, take account of, is one which stresses the thought process of Paul. Paul is not saying that the affliction we will face in our fight against sin and through the opposition of others is not actual suffering. It is! Paul of all people would know this (see 2 Cor. 11:24-28). But in the face of such real and powerful experiences Paul chooses not to consider them as influential. He doesn’t count them as determinative and ultimate. Why?
Paul goes on, they “are not worth comparing tot the glory that is to be revealed to us.” In verse 17 Paul alluded to suffering and glory, and here Paul returns to this well to show this tension as our great hope in times of insurmountable sorrow. What we know now is the real pain and certain presence of suffering. But, Paul says, what we will know as more real and more certain is the glory that will one day come when Christ comes back. On this momentary suffering Matthew Henry reminds us, “The sufferings of the saints are but sufferings of this present time, strike no deeper than the things of time, last no longer than the present time (2 Cor. 4:17), light affliction, and but for a moment.”
This is the ultimate hope of the life Paul spoke of in verses 10 and 11. The good news of the gospel isn’t just eternal life, but life glorified; life spent in eternity in the full radiance of the God who saved us. To set your minds on this is to arm yourself with the power of consideration. We should pray that God would grant us such clarity of mind that we too would refuse to consider suffering in this world as ultimate and determinative.
In the passage leading up to this Paul gave us overwhelming ground for confidence, and if we have such a confidence in our salvation then we know this glory to come will be ours! Since we have such a hope we can fight sin and endure sinful people because the glory which will be revealed one day will be so much greater. It will all be worth it because at the end, we get Jesus. R.C. Sproul is right when he says, “He is not saying that for every ounce of suffering we patiently endure in this world, we will reap the benefit of an ounce of glory in heaven. Paul says that the ratio is not one of equality; in fact, the ratio is such that they are not even worthy of comparison. The principle that he states here is the principle of the how much more—that is to say, the blessing that God has stored up for us is many times greater than the suffering we are called to endure in this world.”
Let us consider Paul’s words in Colossians 3:1-4 to conclude our study today: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
Thursday, January 4th: Romans 8:19
This past year Glacier National Park saw record numbers of tourists flock to its mountainous landscape. 3.3 million people visited the park, which is over three times the population of the state of Montana itself. If you were to take the financial impact which was estimated in 2014 and extend that to the numbers seen in 2017, it would show that Glacier provides nearly 290 million dollars’ worth of revenue to North-west Montana.
Three million people. Over a quarter billion dollars. Why? Because Glacier is beautiful. Humans, made in the image of God are wired to love beauty. Whether we admit it or not, we are attracted to beauty because we were built to adore beauty. Most ultimately this desire finds its end in a believer’s ability to see God as beautiful, but the common experience of even non-believers adds an indirect glory to God as people stand in awe of his creation.
Think of the greatest natural wonder you’ve ever witnessed. A sunset over your backyard. A trip to Glacier or even to Africa or South America. Remember the wonder you had as you observed and took in these sights. Now hold onto those grandiose feelings and take those with you to Romans 8:19.
Yesterday we saw the promise of glory yet to come provides a foundation of hope on which to stand. In the next few verses Paul is going to give us a multifaceted look into what that future glory holds for us. John Calvin summarizes Paul’s direction when he says: “He indeed lays down two things,—that all are creatures in distress,—and yet that they are sustained by hope. And it hence also appears how immense is the value of eternal glory, that it can excite and draw all things to desire it.”
Paul begins by saying, “For the creation waits with eager longing.” Who is the subject of this clause? Creation. Creation can mean a lot of things, it can mean all men, all men and angels, all men and angels and everything which is created like birds, rocks and trees. So we need context to help us understand what Paul means when he says “creation.” Later on in verse 23, Paul will make a distinction between “creation” and “ourselves.” This distinction helps us define creation as the created world itself, not created humans or angels.
So when Paul here refers to creation he is referring to rocks, trees, oceans, lions, sunsets and naked mole rats. Hopefully in your study you noticed the intense longing which Paul wants us to see. It is not only that creating is longing, but that it “waits with eager longing.” To long for something is to obviously have some strong feeling of anticipation, but to long eagerly is to intensify that expectation all the more.
Have you ever thought about the idea that creation longs for something? In many ways we normally thing exclusively the opposite reality: we as humans long to see something in creation. But Paul ascribes the longing to creation. The majestic beauty seen in nature is not content. It wants something. It wants something eagerly. It longs for it.
And what does creation long for? What does the rocks of Glacier which demand the attention and resources of millions of people want? Paul tells us, “for the revealing of the sons of God.” Return now to the feelings you had as you pictured that wonderful scene in nature. Now imagine creation having that same feeling towards the sons of God. In verses 12-17, Paul already defined “sons of God” for us. A son of God is anyone who has been adopted by God through the Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ. If you are a believer you are a son of God. If you are a believer the whole creation which so easily captivates our own senses is anxiously awaiting the radiant sight which will one day be you.
Poets, authors and painters have spilt endless amounts of ink and oil trying to capture the wonder of creation, and yet in the glory to come it is creation which will wonder at those who are saved by God. What a transformation! Today we stand before a mountain as an insignificant creation by both scope and size. But one day, when we are fully redeemed in eternity, we will loom large over Kilimanjaro. The natural wonders of the world will stand breathless before our beauty. This transformation will not be the result of an increase in our might, majesty or size. Instead it will be due to the magnification of redemption.
1 John 3:2 says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” When we see God we will be made like God [not God, but like God] because we will so lavishly be robed in the riches and radiance of Jesus himself.
God has created much beauty in the natural realm of this world, and yet the beauty which beauty longs to see is the salvation of God’s children. The primacy of majesty in our whole universe is the future which awaits God’s children.
So why would we as children choose to long for the things of this world?
The wonder of this text is this: the objects which so easily overwhelm us with beauty will one day be overwhelmed by the beauty of the glory of the redemption of God’s people, and yet God’s people will not be captivated with themselves. We will be captivated by our God. Can we fully understand how much more radiant God will be in his glory? No. But we can base our hope on it. As creation longs to see us, how much more should the redeemed long to see God in his glory.
Friday, January 5th: Romans 8:20-12
Returning again to Glacier National Park, we focus our attention to the park’s namesake: its glaciers. According to one report, in the mid-1800’s the park was home to roughly 150 glaciers. Today, there are 39. And one the lead scientist on a recent study of Glacier is on record saying that most of the existing glaciers could be gone within one or two decades.
Blame this phenomena on whatever you will, but regardless of cause we know the results: creation is corroding. You don’t have to look far to see this. Whether it is the man-made Sphynx slowly eroding in the desert sand, the Great Barrier Reef gently giving way to coral carcasses or invasive species eating away at local ecosystems we can see the decay of the created world.
This is not a 21st century phenomena. Paul affirms this very truth from the theological perspective in Romans 8:20-21. Yesterday we observed creations hope, and today Paul tells us why creation eagerly longs for the revealing of the sons of God. “For creation,” says Paul, “was subjected to futility.” Other translations may render this word, “vanity.” Creation has been subjected to brokenness. Cars rust, batteries die, dogs get hip-dysplasia and all these realities are affirmations of what Paul is saying in this text. Humanity is quick to realize this trend, and even quicker to assign blame and next-steps. But Paul now shares with us the true cause and final end of these events.
Creation was “subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.” What does Paul mean by this? We have to reach back to a few weeks ago to see what Paul means when he uses words like “slavery” or “subjected.” In Romans 8:2 he says, “the Spirit of Life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Sin is what enslaves and subjugates.
So creation is subjugated to sin, but not willingly. How so? Well to understand this we must understand where sin came from. In the Garden of Eden, God tasked Adam with the burden of growing, sustaining, and subduing creation in accordance to God’s will. But Adam sinned. And in Adam’s sin the curse of sin spread like a cancer. Sin caused the serpent to be cursed (Gen. 3:14), sin caused women to be cursed (Gen. 3:16), sin caused man to be cursed (Gen. 3:17) and the trifecta of these curses overflowed to the earth itself: “cursed is the ground because of you” (Gen. 3:17b).
Adam willfully sinned and the earth was punished because of it. R.C. Sproul defines the relationship like this, “So our sin spills over and adversely affects our subordinates. Man was given dominion over the earth, to dress the earth, to keep the earth, to till the earth and to name the animals. Man was established as the king of this environment, and when the king, or the ruler, falls, the effects of his sinfulness spill over and harm the subordinates of the king.”
Creation was collateral damage to the devastating impact of sin. In the same way Adam was separated from God by his sin, so too was creation. The result is, as Matthew Henry points out, “There is an impurity, deformity, and infirmity, which the creature has contracted by the fall of man: the creation is sullied and stained, much of the beauty of the world gone.”
Creation is unwillingly imprisoned because of its association with sinful man. This shouldn’t lead us to see God as unfair, but instead it reveals sin as pervasive and arresting. But, this is not the end of Paul’s message: “in hope” he says, “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.”
All of the corruption we see in our creation will one day be unwound and renewal will occur. It is also important to note that God doesn’t have a plan to restore creation. God has a plan to redeem his children and that plan will overflow and include creation. Everything benefits from God’s act of salvation towards his people. In the same way creation was cursed as a side effect of our sin, so too will their salvation be a side effect of the church’s salvation.
It is easy to imagine the kind of renewal which would happen in regards to our physical world. We have seen the glaciers, we have swam in the oceans, we have marveled the endangered species. But the wonder of this transformation is nothing compared to the transformation that will be for the children of God. Creation was subjected unwillingly, humanity willingly was enslaved to sin. If we can see the wonder and hope of creation’s renewal we can only imagine at the renewal that will be ours if we are in Christ!
Creation hopes in the droppings from the table of our salvation. Seeing the hope of creation brings us hope when we too feel enslaved and futile. We have a salvation which creation longs to know! What creations waits for to experience indirectly, we as believers experience directly and personally through Jesus Christ.
Saturday, January 6th: Romans 8:22
Tony Dungy is the Super Bowl winning and Hall of Fame coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts. I remember reading his biography and learning about a disease one of his son’s had called congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. It’s a mouthful to say, but it is simply a disease which dulls or removes any sensation of pain.
As I initially read about the diagnosis I was generally intrigued. It would be kind of nice to never feel pain, almost like a super power. But not having pain isn’t a good thing. Tony and his wife had to be very careful with their child was growing up, because unlike other children, this one would not cry when he touched a hot stove. In fact he might not even realize he needed to move his hand off of it.
My wife is a massage therapist and works for a Chiropractic clinic. It wasn’t until I met her did I realize that my guzzling of ibuprofen after an injury wasn’t necessarily the best solution. Pain, she explained to me, might be uncomfortable but it is an important part of your body’s ability to tell you something is wrong. If all we do is numb ourselves to pain we can incur further damage to ourselves.
These stories illustrate a similar point that Paul is making in Romans 8:22. “For we know,” Paul says, “that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Paul is continuing to build on the tension and anticipation of creation. He is drawing out the reality of Romans 8:17 where he says, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Suffering, hope and glory are all interwoven in these few paragraphs.
Paul here says that “the whole creation” has been groaning. Notice how Paul is emphasizing the extent of this pain. It would be enough to say “creation” groans, but Paul adds “the whole creation.” There is not one aspect of our world which is not groaning together. R.C. Sproul says, “it means that the deer in the woods, and the lion in the jungle, groan, as they wait for redemption and deliverance from the bondage of corruption.” The shared experience of rocks, hills, waves, birds and blue bonnets is that of mutual groaning. That word is interesting isn’t it? Groaning. You can almost hear pain as you say the word. It is a sound of lament and exhaustion.
But these are not sighs unto death. They are, as Paul says, “pains of childbirth.” Calvin explains, “The meaning is, that creatures are not content in their present state, and yet that they are not so distressed that they pine away without a prospect of a remedy…for a restoration to a better state awaits them.”
Last week we saw that creation was subjected to futility “in hope.” Subjected in hope that one day it may be freed. This freedom, “the glory of the children of God” is the final culmination of the labor pains of creation. As odd as it is to consider, the natural disasters and entropy we see in our world are signs that life is closer than ever. The promise of relief and life will not come from a renewal of all things, but the renewal of all things will come as God ultimately and finally redeems his people at the second coming of Christ.
This redemption is exclusive, not everyone will experience it. It is only for those who believe and are saved, for those who set their mind on the Spirit. So as we examine these pains in our world it ought to cause us to be made aware of the ever encroaching reality of this coming day. For those who are lost, each day is another day closer to death. But for those who are in Christ, each day is another day closer to the goal of all things: resurrected bodies, restored creation, and a life lived in the immediate presence and glory of God. How we should desire to make the most of these days by sharing this news with those who are perishing!
Paul’s phrase of “until now” doesn’t imply that “now” creation no longer experiences these pains. It instead shows that until Jesus returns creation will always be in this cycle of pain and anticipation. As you observe or hear about such “groanings” in our physical world, have you ever stopped to consider the hope of them? Paul is saying that these occurrence, though real and powerful, are reminders that God will one day fix what man could never fix.
These occurrences are the pains that we need to remind us that though things are not right in the immediate, God has promised to make them right in eternity through his redemption. God is so kind to us to cause creation to serve such a reminder in our life! This is another way in which God’s creation helps us worship God rightly.
Sunday, January 7th: Catch-Up Day
If you are already caught up, take this time and try to put to memory a few of the verses we have looked at in Romans 8. Having a greater understanding of these verses makes them even more valuable in regards to memorization because we are reminded of the great truths they teach instead of the mere words which are used.