Reader: “For we know that all creation has been groaning”
Response: “as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Scripture: Romans 8:22-25
For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)
I am struck once again how practical and how up to date the words of Scripture continue to be. Truly there is no book like the Bible. This passage comes in the context of an ongoing discussion regarding God’s children being adopted by the Father. The point here is that his children are fully heirs of the kingdom and are guaranteed benefits that result from being heirs. Now to the text.
Notice the first three words in today’s pericope. “For we know. . .” This is the difference between a hope from God and a hope from man. The root Greek for this “know” is oida, suggesting a full knowledge in contrast to knowing about, which is ginosko, which means to progress in knowledge. For example, the contrast is clear in John 9:54-55. Jesus said, “You say, ‘He is our God,’ but you don’t even know (ginosko) him. I know (oida) him.” The hope Paul writes of is based on oida.
We know that all of creation suffers from death and decay. I think of how confirming this truth is whenever I’m walking in the woods and see trees in various stages of this truth. One senses a longing throughout creation to be made whole and healthy. The writers of Scripture often refer to “the pains of childbirth” as a metaphor for this longing, this groaning (Matt. 24:8, Mark 13:8, John 16:20-22). The idea is the sharp increase in pain just prior to the birth precedes the great joy with the baby’s arrival. Our creation is suffering that pain awaiting the great joy of the coming of the Savior and the consummation of history.
Paul’s audience is the believers in Rome who are experiencing the pain and horror of increasing persecution. Nero is in the process of taking out his insanity on the Christians. And so Paul states the truth that the believers, like creation, are also groaning, longing to be released from the relentless suffering of the day. Note here again there is no promise of physical relief from pain and distress in this world. The promise is that the Holy Spirit will be with us―Emmanuel “God with us.” The presence of the God’s Spirit residing in his people (you and me) is God’s guarantee of the future glory that lies ahead. God signed your adoption papers in the blood of his Son. That is our certain hope, a hope concerning the future glory when we come to faith in Jesus. And what is the nature of this hope? While we normally think of “hope” in this way: “I hope it happens, or I don’t know if it will, but I sure hope so,” this is a hope we cannot see or experience currently, one that involves waiting and looking forward.
Along the same lines, the writer of Hebrews says “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us the assurance about things we cannot see” (Heb.11:1). This hope is not based on how we feel about it. We are not part of making this hope happen. It relies solely on what God has said. It is based on oida. So in dealing with hope, the question for us is, “Do we believe what God has said about what lies ahead?” Both faith and hope point to what has not yet occurred.
We can look back at what has happened in the past and we can move forward anticipating what may lie ahead. But we cannot move backward in history to relive the past nor can we look ahead into the future in the sense of knowing oida or ginosko (both senses) what is certain in earthly time. But we can certainly know what lies ahead in the future glories following our time on this planet.
And what of those future glories? New bodies! Bodies that are not subjected to sin, disease and death. No more evil and suffering. No pain. No more physical therapy. No knee replacements or hip surgeries! No weekly visits to the chiropractor. No dentists or yearly checkups. No shots of any kind. No doctors, preachers or lawyers. Not needed!
And that is just the people! Imagine all of creation being renewed, every plant and animal flourishing. No trace of death, aggression or disease! No “natural” disasters.
Paul then helpfully reminds us how to live in the meantime as we await this future hope to be fulfilled. His words are simple: “ . . . wait with patience and with confidence.” Those are God’s words to us as we deal with the “groanings of the days in which we are living.” Whatever the situation is today in your life, realize that God has given you the final result ahead of time as the result of what our Savior has done. Advent is truly a season given to future hope and glory.
Music: “O Little Town of Bethlehem” Salt Lake Vocal Artists
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=196EvS9ohbM (serene and peaceful, gorgeous!)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAU5Xg-o-eM The Brits do sing!
Almighty God, who, having created all worlds and mankind, has profoundly pitied us; who has come to us that we might be saved, not of our merit, but of your unquenchable love, help us to recognize our shame, our poverty, our darkness, our foolishness, our emptiness, our weakness, that we may know our need of you. And then . . . become incarnate in us. Let your servants depart in peace, O Lord, full of the vision of your salvation, ready to make it plain before all the faces of earth. We pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ―Paul Richardson, from The Worshiping Church, p.141