Romans 8:18-31


Throughout the last three chapters, Paul has been developing his teaching concerning the believer’s sanctification.  He began in the first several chapters showing man’s need for salvation and then moved to describe the salvation God has provided.  This salvation was seen both in justification and in sanctification.









Man’s Sinful Condition

The Salvation God has Provided







We have already noted the differences between justification versus sanctification.  They are both workings of God on our behalf, but it is important to note that they are quite different in several respects.




Justification is a once and for all event.

Sanctification is an ongoing process.

Justification is something that God does on your behalf - God does it FOR you

Sanctification is a work that God does IN you

Justification declares you to be righteous on the basis of the righteousness of Christ which is credited to you

Sanctification begins to develop a character of righteousness in your life


Sanctification begins to develop a character of righteousness in your life.  The development of this character takes time and effort and is accompanied by suffering.  That is the bad news.  The good news is that it is worth it.





            For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18).


The word “for” refers us back to verse 17 and the fact that we do suffer.  Paul said that “we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”  When we came to Christ in faith, we were identified with Him.  We became a part of what He is.


Because He is the Son of God, we are called children and sons of God.  Because He is the heir of the Kingdom, we are fellow heirs with Him.  Because He has eternal life, we also have eternal life.  Because He suffered, we are also called to suffer with Him.  And because He was glorified, we will also experience glory.


Paul tells us something worthy of consideration.  The word “consider” is the same word which he used throughout chapter 4 to speak of our being reckoned as righteous.  We said that it was an accounting term.  And it still is.   In that chapter we saw God’s reckoning.  Now we see Paul’s reckoning.  Paul takes two aspects of the Christian life and he weighs them together to see which is the more valuable.


Imagine a pair of scales.  On the one side, we place a feather and on the other side we place a large brick.  Which is heavier?  The brick has a much greater weight than the feather.  Just as the weight of a feather is nothing when compared to the weight of a brick, so the weight of our present sufferings are as nothing when compared to the glory which is to be revealed.


It isn’t that suffering doesn’t hurt.  It isn’t that bad things don’t really happen.  It is merely that the good is so much better so as to make the suffering and the bad things inconsequential by comparison.





                19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope  21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

                22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. (Romans 8:19-22).


This section is presented in the form of a chiasm.  It is a parallel which contrasts creation as it now is with creation as it one day will be.


Creation anxiously waits for the revealing of the sons of God (8:19)


Creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now (8:22)





Creation was subjected to futility (8:20)


Creation will be set free from its slavery (8:21)



Man’s sin affected more than just man.  When man fell into sin, creation fell.  God created the world and entrusted it into man’s keeping.  Man was the federal head of everything on planet earth.  And his sin impacted everything on this planet.


This is important.  Creation’s fall was not due to a failure in creation.  The world was not created to be a bad place.  It became a bad place because of a curse that was placed upon the earth on account of our sin.


Creation became enslaved to futility.  But with that enslavement came a promise of eventual liberation.


Creation is pictured as a mother who is about to give birth.  At the moment she is in labor.  That isn’t a very comfortable time.  There are pains.  And there is groaning.  And there is suffering.  But that is okay, because something is on its way which will make it worth all of the present pain.  The thing that is on its way is described as the revealing of the sons of God.  The word “revealing” is the Greek word apokalupsin.  It is the same word from which we derive our word “apocalypse.”  It is a compound word made from the joining of two Greek words:


a.         Apo is the preposition “from.”


b.         Kalupto is to “hide” or “conceal.”


There is coming an unveiling.  There is something hidden which will one day be revealed.  Do you see what it is?  It is US!


There is coming a day when the Son of God shall return.  But He is not the one mentioned here.  What we read in verse 19 speaks of the SONS of God - plural.  Creation is poised like an expectant mother awaiting our arrival.


1.         The groaning of Creation is Universal.  Verse 22 says that the “whole creation groans.”


2.         The groaning of creation is the result of man’s sin.


The world was entrusted into Adam’s keeping so that his fall into sin also resulted in the world’s fall.  It was as a direct result of his sin that the ground was cursed.  Adam was told in Genesis 3...


17b Cursed is the ground because of you;

In toil you shall eat of it

All the days of your life.

18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

And you shall eat the plants of the field;

19 By the sweat of your face

You shall eat bread,

Till you return to the ground,

Because from it you were take;

For you are dust,

And to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:17b-19).


But that is not all.  Creation also suffers from the on-going sin of Adam.  Pollution is a testimony to man’s sin having an adverse effect upon creation.


3.         Just as the fall of Creation took place through man, so also the rebirth of Creation takes place through man.  It was the One man, Jesus, who redeemed Creation.  And the fulness of that redemption will be seen at the “revealing of the sons of God.” (8:19).





            And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23).


We saw in verse 22 that creation groans.  Now we see that we also groan within ourselves.  Creation is going through futility.  And we are, too (that is what Romans 7 was all about).  The good news is that the day of redemption is coming.


The Jews had a Feast called the Feast of Firstfruits.  It took place on the first day of the week following the Passover.  It was a happy time - a time of promise.  On this day, a sheaf of fresh grain would be taken to the Temple and the priest would hold it in the open door of the Temple and wave it back and forth before the presence of the Lord.  This was done as a promise of a future harvest.  The rest of the grain had not been harvested yet.  It was too early in the year for that.  And so, this sheaf of firstfruits was a promise of a harvest of thousands upon thousands of such sheaves to come.


It is no accident that the resurrection of Jesus took place on the very day that the Jews observed the Feast of Firstfruits.  While they were waving a sheaf of grain in front of the Temple, it was being whispered throughout the city that there was an empty tomb and that the One who had been dead and buried was now risen.  Jesus is our firstfruits.  He is the promise that we will one day rise from the dead.


But that is not what Paul is talking about here.  Paul tells us that we have in our possession right now a firstfruits principle.  We have the Holy Spirit.  And that is the first part of what will one day come in fulness.  If we only have the firstfruits, then there is a lot more to come.  We have the Spirit of Christ.  And one day we shall share in the entire character of Christ.





            24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:24-25).


Paul says we have been saved in hope.  What is hope?  It is a confident expectation of the future.  In this, it is different from faith.




Looks to what exists now and relies upon it.

Looks forward in anticipation of what is to come.

Focus on the present.

Focus on the future.

Based upon the character of the object of our faith.

Based upon our faith in the promise of that object.


Hope looks to the future to obtain something that you do not now possess.  And that means hope is always unseen.  That isn’t always true with faith.  Faith can be in that which is either seen or unseen.  Thomas saw and believed.  We do not see and yet we believe.  But hope does not see.  Once it does see, then hope is not hope.


In verse 20 we saw that creation was subjected to futility.  Futility is knowing that no matter how hard we try to reverse the downward process, our attempt is doomed to failure.  The opposite of futility is HOPE.





            In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27).


We have just spoken of that which we have not seen.  Now Paul goes on to tell us of something else which we have not seen.  It is the interceding ministry of the Holy Spirit on our behalf.


Do you ever come to the place where you realize that your prayers are inadequate?  If you haven’t come to that place, it is not that you are necessarily praying better, it is merely that you don’t yet know that your prayers are inadequate.  But that is okay.  It is okay because the Holy Spirit is working on your behalf.  Where you are unable to pray as you should, He prays on your behalf.


What are these groanings too deep for words”?  I don’t know.  And even if I did know, I couldn’t tell you because they are too deep for words!

This passage is often interpreted to be the experience of the charismatics commonly described as “tongues.”  But I’m not so sure that this is the case.


1.         Paul is not speaking in the context of this passage about worship or praise, but rather about suffering and groaning.


2.         This passage says nothing about a heavenly prayer language, but rather describes the Spirit speaking on our behalf.  HE does the speaking instead of us.


We saw in verse 22 that the CREATION groans.  In verse 23 we saw that WE groan within ourselves.  And now in verse 26 it is the SPIRIT who groans.  There is a lot of groaning going on in this chapter.


Is that bad?  No, it is good.  Groaning is good if it produces in you a hunger for righteousness.  Groaning is good if it reflects a desire for the unseen things of God.  And groaning is good because God’s Spirit groans with you.  And there is no communication gap between the Father and the Spirit.





            And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).


In verse 26 Paul says that we do not know how to pray.  But here is something that we DO know.

The reason that we can know that groaning is good is because God causes ALL things to work together for good.  God is the orchestrator and controller of all that takes place in this world.  There is nothing that exists outside of His control.  And He is completely able to cause all to work together in the manner in which He has designed.


Notice that Paul does NOT say that all things are good.  He is not denying the presence of sin.  He is not pretending that bad things do not happen.  But God is able to take even bad things and use them in such a way that they turn out for the best on behalf of His people.


This is illustrated in the story of Joseph.  Joseph’s brothers were out to get him.  They devised a plan to hurt him.  To that end, they did some very bad things.  They threw him into a pit and then they sold him into slavery and then they made up a story of his death and sold their father on it.


You know the rest of the story.  The Lord elevated Joseph from a prison to become the second most powerful man in all of Egypt.  Years later, Joseph stood before his brothers and said:


            “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20).


If it had not been for Joseph, then the sons of Jacob would have starved in the famine that swept that part of the world.  If Joseph had not been sold into Egypt, there would have been no children of Israel.  If Joseph had not suffered, there would have been no Messiah.  f he had not experience the evil of his brothers, you would still be in your sins.


All things are not good.  God never said, “Give thanks for all things.”  He says, “Give thanks IN all things.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).


All things are not good.  Tragedy is real.  Jesus cried at a funeral.  He screamed in agony on the cross.  You will face real problems in this life.  And this verse does not minimize that reality.


However, there is another reality which is working in our behalf.  God is working.  He works in the good things and He works in the bad things and the result of His working is good.


To whom does this verse apply?  For whom does God cause all things to work together for good?  The answer is given in two parts:


(1)        To those who love God.


(2)        To those who are called according to His purpose.


This is not two separate groups of people.  They are one and the same.  Those who love God ARE the same who are called according to his purpose.


Do you ever wonder if you have been called according to God’s divine purpose?  Do you ever wonder if you are one of His chosen people?  Here is an answer to that question.  It can be determined by whether of not you love God.





                29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (Romans 8:29-31).


The reason that we know that God works all things together for the good of His people is because He knows what He is doing and He has known about it since the beginning.  God’s saving you was not mere happenstance.  Your salvation was preplanned by God before the foundation of the world.


1.         The Extent of God’s Foreknowledge.


The foreknowledge of God is more than the mere fact that God knows everything beforehand.  It includes that, but it also goes far beyond that.  Neither does it merely say that God foreknows ABOUT certain individuals.  God’s foreknowledge of His people means that He knows them in a relational sense.


When the Bible says that Adam knew his wife, it does not mean that he knew Eve’s name and phone number and a few relevant facts about her.  It is an expression of love.  And the same is true of God.  He knew you and loved you before you were even born.


By the same token, Matthew 7:22-23 says that there will be many who will stand before the Lord and He shall say, “I never KNEW you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”


Those who God knew in this sense were predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son.  Why?  Why did God predestine you?  The reason might surprise you.  Paul does not say that it was because you were so good and pure and loveable.  Indeed, the reason that he gives has nothing to do with you.  He says that the reason God predestined you was so that Jesus  would be the firstborn among many brethren.  The Father gave the Son younger brothers so that He might have the honor of being the Older Brother.


He has the birthright.  The inheritance is His.  And the result is that He holds the position of honor.


2.         Predestined.


The word “predestine” simply means to “destine beforehand.”  The meaning of the Greek word is essentially the same.  There are a lot of people who have problems with this.  They feel that it destroys free will.  And perhaps it does.  But that is too bad.  The Scriptures speak explicitly about God having predestined men.  But that is not all.  Predestination does not take place in a vacuum.


3.         Called.


The fact of predestination does not take place apart from the gospel.  This is seen by the fact that those whom God predestined were called.  This is not only an outward call — although all who were predestined WERE outwardly called.  This is also an inward call.  It is a call in which God’s Spirit regenerated those whom God had chosen.  The result was that they came to Christ in faith.  And this brings us to our next point.


4.         Justified.


Justification did not take place at the cross.  It took place when you believed.  It came at that time of faith and when God counted your faith as righteousness, imputing the very righteousness of Christ to you.


5.         Glorified.


With the mention of glory, we come full circle.  This is how Paul started this passage.  In verse 18 we read that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.


Paul speaks of this glorification in the aorist tense as though it were a completed action.  It is obvious from the context that it is not.  But he sees the progression as so certain that he describes it as having already taken place.  Our future glory is a part of our present hope.  Paul said this back in Romans 5.


            ...and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:2b).


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