Jasmine Timm speaking on Romans 8:18-21 and 8:31-39. This is our fifth week meeting over the summer to cover the book of Romans. This week we talked about how we should hope because we know what’s coming, and we should have confidence because we know what’s been done.
Part 1: Romans 8:18-21
So we had our San Francisco Trip earlier this summer. We stayed in a district called the Tenderloin which is a neighborhood with nearly 30,000 people, most of whom are homeless or seriously impoverished. It’s easy to look around and see that their is brokenness in the Tenderloin.
But what caught my attention wasn’t necessarily the people of the Tenderloin. That’s who we were there for, but what most stood out to me were the pigeons. There was an afternoon where I was sitting on a curb in the Tenderloin, and I saw a group of pigeons right next to me. Now, we don’t have many pigeons in Eugene, so they’re already a little unfamiliar. But these weren’t your average pigeons. Their feathers were matted. They were missing some of their toes. Their eyes were bloodshot. Their movements were jerky. These were pigeons who were on drugs, literally. The sin that existed in the Tenderloin flooded even the pigeons. People were captive to drugs, the streets were lined with leftovers, and even the pigeons were held captive to these substances.
For the rest of the week, whenever I saw a pigeon, all I could think was “this is not what a pigeon is supposed to be. This isn’t what the world was supposed to be.”
Romans 8 has something similar to say about the bondage of creation. It’s not just us who are experiencing the repercussions of the fall. We are not the only part of creation that is subject to sin and suffering. All of creation is impacted by the fall.
When Adam sinned, when eve took the first bite of that fruit, all of creation payed for it. Sin creeped into the hearts of humanity, but it also found it’s way deep down into creation. Sin permeated everything.
Why is that? Why would all of creation have to suffer along with all of humanity?
Paul gives us the answer in this section of Romans. Creation suffers for a purpose, and that purpose is to bring freedom through renewed glory. Creation suffers for the purpose of obtaining a glory that’s even greater than what would have been before. Paul tells us that creation suffers loss for glory to be gained.
Not only that, but Paul wants us to learn something from creation here. What he wants us to see is that the reality of future glory should awaken present hope.
Today in Romans we’re going to look at the fact that we should hope because we know what’s coming, and we should have confidence because we know what’s been done.
Let’s look first to see how Paul continues to develop the theme of hope:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing 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 will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Paul began this section of Romans back in chapter 5 by emphasizing the future hope believers have. He is continuing his argument here.
Paul is continuing the theme of hope he introduced in 5 and has been building out.
Paul affirmed in the previous verse, verse 17, that Christians will suffer with Christ. We also talked about this in Romans 5. We will suffer in this life, and Paul tells us in verse 17 that not only will we suffer, but we will suffer with Christ. When we think on Christ’s sufferings, that’s weighty. He was nailed to a cross. But then look what he tells us:
v18— For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Those sufferings—being beaten, betrayed, mocked, isolated, crucified, killed—are nothing. They hold no weight when measured against the future glory that awaits God’s children. They are a tiny speck when held against the backdrop of future glory. They are like that tiny red blip on the rope that goes on forever. You can hardly notice them when you look toward what is coming.
So we know this future glory must be great enough to make even the worst of our sufferings now seem small and insignificant. That has to be true if Paul is making such a bold claim here. The glory, the hope that is coming is so great that it will not only overshadow your current sufferings, but will make them seem like a tiny splinter in your finger instead of a giant dagger in your side.
The future glory we have awaiting us at Jesus’ return is greater, heavier, deeper than we can even begin to wrap our minds around. It should wake up this hope that Paul has been calling for.
But does it? Does it really make us restless, antsy, eager for Christ’s return? Does it really shift our gaze forward and upward?
If we’re honest, we don’t always hope like this. Our hope remains asleep even when we’re awake. We’re not always woken up to hope, even when suffering does hit.
Look how creation responds to this awaited glory in verse 19:
v19— For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.
Paul is personifying creation. He is personifying the trees, mountains, rivers, oceans, the streets of the Tenderloin in San Francisco. All of creation, he says, is waiting with eager longing. All the things we see all around us are waiting for this future glory to arrive.
Think about the things you wait for. Like we talked about two weeks ago, we wait for vacations, we wait for big events like graduating high school or college.
That is the same type of waiting we are talking about here. This word eager means to look for. Looking intentionally for something to come. That is what creation is doing here— they are eager, looking, watching, waiting.
Longing can be translated to anxious longing. It’s not just that creation is waiting and looking for hope to arrive. It is anxious over it. Think about what situations make you anxious. Creation is anxiously waiting to get out of its current situation of suffering.
It’s as if all of creation is holding its breath, waiting, looking for that final person to turn to Christ. Whenever a new believer turns from their sin and turns toward Christ, embracing him as Savior, it’s as if creation is saying to itself, “Is this it? Was that the person we’ve been waiting for? Is glory finally here?” Creation is waiting so that glory may be renewed.
Let’s look at the reason for why they are waiting:
v20—For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it
They are waiting because they, too are subjected to sin. Adam and Eve and all of their descendants are subjected to this futility, to this brokenness. We are not what we were supposed to be, and the world is not what it was supposed to be. The pigeons in San Francisco are under the weight of the same brokenness. And not because they wanted to be, not because creation had a fear of missing out. It suffers with us because God ordained it.
v20-21—in hope 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.
It was all for hope. God did this to create a need for hope so we yearn for something greater.
And again, if you’re anything like me, you wouldn’t have known a greater hope existed unless God had showed it to you. We go about our lives looking at what is in front of us. I know I wouldn’t have looked up or forward or to the side to see if there was something more for me in life. I would have just kept looking at what was in front of me.
And then enter in sin and suffering. It gets in the way of our view, of our lives. And it actually blesses us. Remember from Romans 5, it actually works to serve our hope. So when sin entered into the world through Adam, and when it went down the line all the way to us, it actually ended up serving God’s purpose. We don’t have to serve sin’s purpose because God makes it serve his purpose—to awaken hope and restore glory.
But remember why this is all possible. It wasn’t just us who were impacted by Adam’s sin. Jesus suffered the results of a sin-filled world, and he came to suffer for sin-filled people. And what’s different about him is that he did this willingly. God saw all this suffering and sin and he was moved by it. He was moved to his core by the corruption he saw in the world he created and in the people he formed. So he decided to set his people free from the sin that they were trapped in, wrapped around like a wire. But the only way for his people to be set free from sin and suffering was to put an end to it himself. Jesus came into our sin filled world and lived among sin filled people, yet never sinned himself. He never fell short of God’s glory because God’s glory was in him. He is the image, the perfect representative of who God is and he upheld God’s glory perfectly. He lived in a way that you and I never could, loving on people who were suffering and asking for nothing in return, honoring God in every word he spoke and every step he took. He denied sin and the enemy and even his own desires in order to be the perfect sacrifice for us. See, sin kills us. Sin demands death. But God changes the narrative through Jesus. Not only did he live the life we never could, but he died the death that we deserved. We were born with sin, but we also chose it. And when we choose sin, we choose death. But Jesus chose death so we could have life. He suffered by being nailed to a wooden cross, and on that cross, as he slowly died, he placed all of our sin on himself. The sin you committed yesterday, the mistake you will make tonight, the mean thought you will have toward someone tomorrow, all of the sin of fallen humanity placed on the shoulders of Jesus. He bore the full wrath of God toward sin, and suffered in our place. He took sin and suffering down to the grave with him and rose from the dead three days later, proving sin to be defeated and death to be erased.
So there’s good news for us. For anyone who sees their need, that they can’t save themselves from their own sin and shortcomings, that they need a savior and that Jesus is that savior, they have hope. The person who says, “I can do nothing to save myself but Jesus, the Son of God, has done everything to save me” has hope. They have the hope that all of this suffering really does just last for a moment because they have the confidence that they surely belong to Jesus and that eternal life will be theirs though him. And so they wait in hope for him to return.
Creation knows this. It knows that Jesus is coming back. And so as creation is waiting, it’s waiting in hope. It’s waiting to be free from corruption. It’s waiting for the world will be made new. No more sin, sickness, suffering, death. No suffering for us or for creation. Glory is restored and made new. Creation is waiting for that last person to be revealed so that glory may be renewed.
Guys, the world is going to be made new. Think about that. When Jesus comes back, he is restoring the world, making it what it was supposed to be. You’ll never cry in sadness again. You’ll never experience pain again. You won’t rebel against God. You won’t have hatred in your heard toward your classmates. You won’t be scared walking to your car at night. In fact, there won’t even be a night—the whole world will be lit up by the light of God’s glory.
We’ll have new bodies that can’t get sick. We’ll have new hearts that don’t sin. We’ll have a earth with no tsunamis. We’ll be perfectly happy being in the presence of God. All of this will happen once Jesus returns, and it will be the new reality for all who call upon him as King of the Universe and Savior of their souls.
If the creation can look forward to Jesus’ return, if it can look forward to the resurrection bodies we will receive and the new heavens and the new earths that will be set in place, why don’t we?
How often do we walk around knowing the hope of the glory that awaits us, yet remain unmoved by hope? We can recite the end of the story all day long, that hope is coming, that glory is coming, but do we yearn for it? Or are we going about our days in a steady rhythm that’s often void of yearning for our future hope.
Why aren’t we groaning the way that creation does?
Creation presents a model and a challenge for us here. We ought to be so gripped by the future glory that God will set in place when Christ returns that it impacts everything about us and our lives right now. We ought to yearn like this, we ought to wait and look and participate in the work that God is doing right now to renew and restore and reconcile creation to himself.
But in order to do this, we must feel our need, we must recognize that glory in its fullest is not yet here, but that it is coming. We ought to let hope stir our affections into actions, and those actions ought to testify of a future and real, tangible glory that is awaiting us.
The reality of future glory should awaken present hope. We should hope because we know what’s coming.
Part 2: Romans 8:31-19
Creation is waiting, and we’re waiting. The entire universe is waiting in hope. And this waiting can get really hard.
So what then? Look at Romans 8:31-39.
Nothing can separate you from the hope you have, from the fact that God loved you because Christ died for you. It will get hard to hope on some days. Suffering will come, sin will distract us and weigh us down. The world will mock us and even our own thoughts will condemn us.
Any runner in here? I want you to imagine running a race. It’s a marathon. Oh, and you have ankle weights on. And the course is all jagged and you have no idea what the rest of the course will look like. But you do know that you’ll win. Before you even start the race, you’re told that you’ll win, and that nothing can get in your way.
So you start running, and about 2 miles in those ankle weights start slowing you down. About a mile later people start booing you. What could get you through that race? What could sustain the hope that’s waiting for you at the end, that you will win and get the first place prize? The only thing that could get you through is knowing what’s at the end and that nothing on this horrible course can keep you from obtaining your prize.
You see, Jesus has asked us to run a race. We start the race already knowing the end. We know Jesus will meet us at the finish line. We know he has already won for us. We know that we will receive the greatest prize of all: Jesus Christ and eternal life with him.
And during this race, Jesus gives you a helper. You have the Spirit of God living inside of you who gives you the strength to run, who gives you the strength to hope. You have the assurance of what is at the end, and the strength to make it to the end. You have hope for what is coming and you have security that you’ll make it, no matter how hard it gets.
Through Christ, we are more than conquerors. We do more than just win a race. We inherit the world with him. We inherit God. And we can be sure that not death, not even the best things in life, not spiritual forces or the past or the future, not the highest high of life or the lowest low we face, not our own thoughts, not the opinions of others, nothing in the entire world can separate us from the love of God and the hope we have in Christ Jesus.
So when it gets hard, we press on in hope. And when it gets hard to hope, we press on in confidence knowing that nothing can separate us from God because of Christ.
We should hope because we know what’s coming. And we should have confidence because we know what has been done.