Creation’s Groaning

Romans 8: 23 – 25

the-lord-is-my-shepard-I-shall-not-be-afraidWe Christians share creation’s groaning and hope (23), for we possess the Spirit as the firstfruits, the downpayment and pledge of our final redemption, and this causes us all the more to long for the finishing of God’s work in us. What is often called the NT ‘already—not—yet’ tension between what God has already done for the believer and what he has yet to do is very evident when we compare v 23 with vs 14–17. For the ‘sonship’ we are there said to possess is here tied to the redemption of our bodies and made the object of hope and expectation. Such hope is the very essence of our salvation. We must, therefore, wait patiently for what God has promised (24–25).

In vs 26–30 Paul gives three reasons why we can wait with patience and confidence for the culmination of our hope. First, the Spirit assists our ignorance about what to pray for (26–27). In this life we are necessarily uncertain about what we ought to pray for. But the Spirit himself intercedes for us with God, praying on our behalf that prayer which is always in perfect accordance with God’s will (27). Paul is not here describing the gift of speaking in tongues; it is not even clear that he denotes an audible process at all, since the Spirit’s groans may be metaphorical (see v 22). Rather, he is probably describing an intercessory ministry of the Spirit in the heart of the believer that occurs without even our knowledge.

A second basis for the believer’s confident expectation of the future is God’s constant working in all things for the good of those who love him (28). Nothing that can touch us lies outside the scope of our Father’s providential care: here, indeed, is cause for joy and a rock-solid foundation for hope. We must, however, define the good that God is working to produce for us in his terms and not in ours. God knows that our greatest good is to know him and to enjoy his presence forever. He may, then, in pursuit of this final ‘good’, allow difficulties such as poverty, grief and ill health to afflict us. Our joy will come not from knowing that we will never face such difficulties—for we certainly will (17)—but that whatever the difficulty, our loving Father is at work to make us stronger Christians.

Carson, D. A., France, R. T., Motyer, J. A., & Wenham, G. J. (Eds.). (1994). New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 1141). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.