************ Sermon on Romans 8:18-25 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 15, 2011
In our study of Genesis we looked at man's fall into sin. Do you remember the results? We saw the judgment of God upon the serpent and Satan, the judgment upon the woman, and the judgment upon the man. We watched as Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden and its intimate fellowship with God. We saw the spread of sin as Cain murdered Abel.
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the results of the Fall from the perspective of Romans 5. We learned that sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin (Rom 5:12).
Today, we want to look at the results of the Fall from the perspective of Romans 8. We learn, today, that one of the results of the Fall is "groans" or "groaning." In fact, we hear a three-fold groaning. First, we hear groaning by man. Second, we hear groaning by creation. Third, we hear groaning by the Spirit.
I want you to know, this morning, that life is full of groans and groaning – all because of sin.
I Man Groans
A First of all, do you hear what Paul says is the experience of mankind? Verse 18 - he mentions "our present sufferings." Verse 21 - "we ... groan inwardly." Verse 26 - "our weakness."
Do you see man's condition in this life, on this earth, in our present sinful flesh, all because of sin? It is full of the groans of pain and sorrow.
Who is saying this? Paul. Paul who knows what he is talking about. Paul who has personal experience, lots of personal experience, with suffering and pain: lashes, beatings, shipwreck, danger, hunger, thirst, bandits, and so on (cf 2 Cor 11:24-29).
B There is so much pain in this life, isn't there? Let's start with all the physical suffering in our world. There is so much of it. Think of the pain of God's children in Egypt as they suffered under their Egyptian taskmasters. Go to a children's hospital or CPS (Child Protective Services) and see horribly mistreated and neglected children. Go to the Sudan and Haiti and see people suffering from hunger. Go to sections of Africa and see all the children orphaned by AIDS. Go to a home for abused women and see the damnable things husbands have done to their wives and fathers have done to their daughters. Many of our members have endured incredible physical suffering: back pain, surgery, automobile accident, injury at work, heart-attack. Think of the pain endured by someone dying and gasping for every breath. Think of the pain of childbirth – part of God's judgment upon the woman in the Garden (Gen 3:16).
There is emotional pain. I think of the sorrow when the Israelites were commanded by the Egyptians to drown their firstborn in the Nile. I think of the sorrow experienced by the mothers of Bethlehem when King Herod killed their baby boys. I think of Jesus' tears over Jerusalem and over the grave of Lazarus. I think of the death of a loved one. I think of the emotional pain many women experience after an abortion or after giving up their child or grandchild for adoption. I think of a broken relationship, a divorce, adultery, a wayward child, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, brothers or sisters who do not talk to each other. I think of all the heart-ache and pain as a result of drug and alcohol addiction.
We can also mention the suffering for Christ, the persecution, experienced by Paul (2 Cor 11:24-29) and millions of Christians in places like China, India, Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan.
There is also the suffering for sin. Think of what Christ suffered: the tears of Gethsemane, the slapping and spitting, the whipping and crown of thorns, the cross, being forsaken by God. Christ suffered all this because of the sins of the world; Christ suffered all this because of me and you.
Suffering. Suffering. Suffering. Our world is full of suffering and pain. It truly is a vale of tears.
All of this suffering and pain and groans, my brothers and sisters, is the direct result of sin. We cannot put the blame on the so-called "disease of alcoholism", or the addictive personality we were born with, or the environment in which we were raised, or the abuse or neglect we suffered. The problem is sin – regardless of what any social scientist, doctor, or therapist may say. It is because of sin that there is pain and suffering and groaning. We cannot try to shift the blame anywhere else. We suffer on account of sin – the sin of Adam, the sin we are born with, the sin we actually commit.
C In verse 23 Paul identifies another kind of groaning. Listen to what he says:
(Rom 8:23) Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.The reason we groan is because we have experienced "the firstfruits of the Spirit," a foretaste of the glory to come.
Think of the nation of Israel at the border to the Promised Land. Spies were sent to see what the land was like and bring back some of the fruit of the land. The spies returned with a single cluster of grapes – a cluster so big it took two men to carry it on a pole between them – along with some pomegranates and figs. They showed the fruit of the land to the people and told them the land flows with milk and honey (Num 13:21-27). I can well imagine that Moses and Aaron and Miriam and the leaders of the tribes all tasted the fruit brought back by the spies. You know what Israel was given? She was given a foretaste of the glory of the promised land. No wonder Israel groaned as she faced forty more years of wandering in the desert.
We Christians have the "firstfruits of the Spirit." We have tasted the blessings of heaven through the ministry of the Spirit. This makes us want to see the Lord, receive a new body, and live with Him and serve Him forever. It makes us want to live the new life Christ won for us by His death and resurrection. So what do we do? We "groan inwardly." We groan in anticipation. We want to leave this body and this life of sin and sorrow. We want to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. We can hardly wait. So we hope and wait and groan. We groan because the best is yet to come.
II Creation Groans
A Second, do you hear what Paul says is the experience of creation? Verse 20 - "subjected to frustration." Verse 21 - "bondage to decay." Verse 22 - "pains of childbirth." In other words, creation too is suffering and groaning. Along with man. Alongside of man. Because of man.
Do you remember the curse God placed upon creation in Genesis 3? It started with the curse upon the snake/serpent to crawl upon its belly and to eat dust (Gen 3:14). But there is more. Listen to what God said to Adam:
(Gen 3:17-18) "Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. (18) It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. (Cf Gen 5:29)
Modern man thinks and claims that sin is a personal thing, something between a man and his God. But sin always has unintended consequences. Adultery, for instance, is not just between a man and a woman but often wrecks marriages and families. Alcoholism and drug addiction leaves untold misery behind in the lives of family members. Pre-marital sex often wreaks havoc on the families involved.
Adam may have thought that to take and eat of the forbidden fruit was just between him and his God. But God makes clear in Genesis 3 already that Adam's sin impacts the ground, the earth, the entire creation.
B Creation is "subjected to frustration" (Rom 8:20), is in "bondage to decay" (Rom 8:21), and is experiencing the "pains of childbirth" (Rom 8:22). This means more than the thorns, thistles, and weeds mentioned in Genesis 3. This means change and decay (cf "Abide With Me").
When man fell into sin, creation became mutable and mortal. When man fell into sin, creation became sullied and stained. When man fell into sin, creation experienced impurity, deformity, and infirmity.
How does this play out? Creatures prey on one another and they harm and destroy one another. So, unlike the picture of the new life in Christ that we see in Isaiah 11, the wolf does not live with the lamb, the leopard does not lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling do not live together. The cow does not feed with the bear and their young do not lie down together. The lion does not eat straw like the ox. The infant does not play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child does not put his hand into the viper's nest.
How does this play out? Think of the flood. Animals were created by God for life. Instead, they experienced death. Massive death. Painful death.
How does this play out? Entire species become extinct, gardens are turned into deserts, forests are stripped bare, huge gaping holes are left by strip-mining.
How does this play out? Earthquakes. Floods. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Tidal waves. Drought. Flood. Fire. Mud Slides. Erupting volcanoes.
Creation is "subjected to frustration" (Rom 8:20), is in "bondage to decay" (Rom 8:21), and is experiencing the "pains of childbirth" (Rom 8:22). Along with man, alongside of man, creation is groaning. All because of man's fall into sin.
C Now notice, creation is "groaning as in the pains of childbirth" (Rom 8:22). What happens after the pains of childbirth? What happens after all the groaning and moaning? A child is born. A child in whom the mother and father rejoices and delights. A mother can go through all the pain because she knows that after the pain is the joy of a child.
I want you to notice that the creation is exactly like man. Like man, creation groans. Like man, creation groans under the pain and suffering of this life. And, like man, creation goes through all the pain because it knows that after the pain is something better. As Paul puts it,
(Rom 8:19) The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
So, what happens to creation after the groaning and the pain is over? What does Paul say?
(Rom 8:21) ... the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.Creation shares in the victory of the sons and daughters of God. Creation participates – with us – in the victory of Christ over sin, death, and the grave. Meaning what? Meaning that creation someday will be given a new body – a new heaven and new earth – and live with the Lord forever. Like us it groans as it waits for this to happen. It wants to leave the sin and sorrow and pain of this life. It wants to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. It can hardly wait. So it hopes and waits and groans.
III The Spirit Groans
A Third, we are told that the Spirit of God also groans. It groans with us and it groans for us.
(Rom 8:26) In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.
Why does the Spirit groan? Because God is concerned about all the groans and trials of His people. Jesus groaned when He saw what sin was doing to mankind (Mk 7:34; Jn 11:33,38). In the same way, the Spirit groans with us and for us. The Spirit, you see, lives within us and therefore knows our sin and our weaknesses and our suffering. He, more than any other, feels our pain.
B But the Spirit does more than groan. He prays for us in His groaning. He prays for us that we might be led into the will of God. You see, we do not always know God's will. We do not always know how to pray. But the Spirit intercedes for us that we might live in the will of God in spite of suffering. The Spirit "shares" our burden and our pain.
Adam's sin was not just between Adam and God. It ended up being man's fall into sin. And death. And pain and suffering and groans. Not only did Adam drag all his descendants down with him but his sin also wrecked God's perfect creation.
However, as I already said, sin does not have the last word. Christ does. And, because of Christ, we wait eagerly for a better future – for us and creation. A future without pain, without suffering, without groans. How does John put it?
(Rev 21:1,4) Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth ... (4) He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain ..."Then, we – and creation with us – will have victory in Christ over the groans of sin and death.
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