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The Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit
Groaning with Hope
Romans 8:18-25
Tonight we will be studying Romans 8:18-25.  I don't want to take the time every week to give you a review of what we've already looked at, but I feel like it is important because of how this chapter builds.  It's very difficult to just jump into the text and pull out a verse and be able to understand its meaning without knowing what comes before and after it. 
And yet, that is exactly what happens with this chapter, especially with the verses toward the end.   Verses 28, 31 and 37 and 38 are some of the most quoted and most often misused and amisapplied verses in the Bible because they are pulled out of the context of the chapter. 
So to avoid that temptation, we'll take a lit time to review what we've seen already. The theme of chapter 8 is the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit, what He does in us, with us and for us. 
We’re no longer under condemnation.  That’s how verse 1 starts.  We’re no longer under the sentence of death by the law.  We have been delivered from the law of sin and death.  We have been given new life.  We have been regenerated.  We are born again. 
Verses 2 and 3 tell us He is freeing us from from sin and death.  Verse 4, He’s enabling us to fulfill the law.  It’s not the negative of being free from the curse of the law, it’s the positive of being enabled to fulfill the law. 
Verses 5 to 11, He’s changing our nature.  Verses 12 and 13, He is empowering us continually for righteousness.  Verses 14 to 16, He is confirming our adoption as sons of God.  And that leads us now to verse 17 where we find the last identifiable ministry of the Holy Spirit in this chapter; and that is He is guaranteeing or securing our future eternal glory. 
We have a guarantee of eternal glory.  This is the best of all the elements of salvation, for what kind of salvation would we have if we could sin it away?  Because if we could, we would.  I promise you if salvation could be lost, nobody would go to heaven.
So the only hope we have for eternal glory, the final part of our salvation, the final chapter, is to be secured by the same God who chose us, called us, justified us.  He will one day glorify us.  And that is the ultimate work of the Holy Spirit
We started our study of how the Holy Spirit secures our future glory last week in verses 17 and 18 where we discover that as children of God we are His heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus.  And Paul reminds us that as heirs we are also called to suffer with Jesus so we can be glorified with Him.  Let's start their for our text tonight.
Verse 18-25  
So here is a passage that is all about future glory.  It launches with the last statement of verse 17 and our being glorified with Him. Verse 18 talks about the glory that is to be revealed to us.  Verse 19, the revealing of the sons of God again in glory.  Verse 21 at the end of the verse, the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 
Verse 23 ends that we are waiting for the redemption of our body.  Verses 24 and 25 talk about our hope for glory yet to come for which we eagerly wait.
So this is all about the Holy Spirit which secures us to future glory.  In fact, verse 23 indicates that at the heart of this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, a down payment on future glory.  Looking ahead a little bit, we also learn in verses 26 and 27 that the Spirit is interceding for us, which again is His work to secure us.  A constant interceding on our behalf.
If there is one thought that really jumps out of the text and begs to be considered, it is the various usages of the word "groan". There’s a lot of groaning going on in this passage. 
In verses 19 and following, creation is groaning.  Then in verse 23, it is those who have the first fruits of the Spirit that are groaning.  And then down in verse 26, the Holy Spirit is groaning.  So everything that is close to God, His creation, His redeemed and even His Spirit are all pictured as "groaning" as they await the final coming of the glory of God. And all of these groanings are some indication of an unfulfilled reality, the promise of God.  
All of creation feels the unfulfillment.  Believers feel the unfulfillment and even the Holy Spirit experiences that unfulfillment.  So tonight I want us to look at two aspects of this groaning, the creation and the believer, and I want to save the third for a study on its won because it leads into verse 28 and all things working together for good. 
So let's begin by looking at
1. The Groaning of Creation
verses 19-22
So in those four verses, creation is the subject and creation is groaning and anxiously awaiting this revealing of the sons of God .  Creation is waiting to be delivered like a pregnant woman in labor pains.  So what is this talking about?  And in what sense is the creation groaning?
This is the groaning of anticipation.  This is the groaning of unfulfillment.  This is groaning that is prompted by living in the kind of conditions that cause you to ache in anticipation of something better coming.  If there were Jews listening or reading this passage they understood it very well.  
They thought in terms of the present age and the age to come. The present age was the age of sin and suffering and decay and corruption and fallenness and sin.  And the age to come was the age of the new heaven and the new earth and righteousness and purity and holiness and virtue and glory and the absence of death and decay and disease. 
And people who knew the Word of God and waited for the fulfillment of this understood what it was to be living in a groaning world.  And what is primarily pictured here is a suffering, physical world as she awaits the coming of the Messiah.
The part of creation that is groaning is not the spiritual side of things.  This isn't about angels and heaven and demons. 
It's not even about humanity, both lost and saved.  This is talking about the material heavens and earth and the components that make them up.  This is the physical earth and water, land, grass, flowers, animals, bugs, fish, rivers, streams and everything that is in them being personified.  And they are pictured as groaning. 
This old world and the heavens that surround it feel the effects of man's sin and the fall and they groan with a desire to be delivered and restored back to what God created and intended them to be.  That’s the groaning of creation. 
And the language here is very strong.  Notice, creation has an earnest expectation.  It eagerly waits.  And what is pictured is creation stretching its neck and standing on its tippy toes trying to look off out into the distance and see the coming of deliverance.  It's that kind of expectancy.  
And notice what is being looked for, actually who is being looked for.  It is the sons of God. It’s persons.  It’s the revealing, the unveiling of the sons of God.
So this is the time when we are all glorified, which means this is the coming of the Lord.  This is that time when we see Him and we are changed to be like him. 
That's what creation is looking for! In verse 21, it's called the glorious liberty of the sons of God. That means when all the children of God are glorified, creation is going to get the benefit of it because there will be a new heaven and a new earth.  And here we discover that the whole creation is looking for that event, eagerly anticipating it.
So why is creation doing that? 
verse 20
What does that mean?  Well, let's take it apart and figure it out.  First of all, creation was subjected to futility.  Futility means aimlessness, emptiness, uselessness.  It is the inability to reach a goal or achieve a purpose. In other words, creation can’t be what it wants to be. 
All creation was originally good, right?  When God created in Genesis 1, it was good.  He looked it over and that's what He said about it.
But at some point, it was subjected to futility and it can no longer fulfill its purpose.  It is no longer what it should be or what it was intended to be.  And by the way, notice is was subjected, past tense. So at some definite point in time, something happened that caused the creation to move from being purposeful and perfect to being purposeless and futile.  It was subjected to decay.  It is now in the bondage of corruption.  And it groans. 
So what  happened? Is this just the catastrophic fallout of the evolutionary cycle?  Is this the survival of he fittest in action?  What happened?
We have a clue in verse 20 in the phrase "not willingly".  In other words, creation doesn't carry the blame for corrupting itself.  Whatever subjected creation to its aimlessness and corruption and decay,  whatever caused this inability to be glorious as the original created goal was intended, whatever caused corruption to groan, it wasn’t creation’s fault.
Creation is an involuntary victim.  Something else did this to creation.  Actually, someone else did it to creation.  But who?  Keep reading.
verse 20
"but because of Him who subjected it.”  Who’s that?  That's God.  Interesting, isn't it?  God subjected creation to its futility.  It was God, according to Genesis 3:17, 18, and 19 that pronounced a curse on the creation.  Why?  Because of the sin of Adam and Eve.
When Adam and Eve sinned, God brought a punishment on then that was so sever , so infectious that no human being who ever walks on this planet will escape it.  And that plague not only affected the people on the planet, but it affected the planet and the environment and the atmosphere and everything that had anything to do with the people. 
And things are the way they are in the world because God cursed this entire creation.  He cursed it so that man is left to face every waking moment of his life the deadly, destructive, corrupting realities of sin.  It is inescapable.
And because of man's sin, nature’s destiny is inseparably linked with man’s, and because man sinned and fell into a corrupt condition, so the domain of man is in the bondage or the slavery of corruption as well.  See that phrase there in verse 21?  The creation itself is in slavery to corruption because there is this intimate connection between man’s sin and the decay to which the whole universe is subject.
And I want to tell you something!  The problem is of the type that environmentalists aren’t going to fix it.  Eliminating carbon footprints is not going to do it.  Getting rid of fossil fuels isn’t going to do it.  Cleaning up the world's water supply will not reverse it.  Education isn’t going to do it. 
This is a divine curse that has caused creation to spiral toward total destruction and there is no human way to stop it. Man is messed up and because of God's curse, his entire environment.
And yet, creation stands on its tiptoes looking for deliverance because of one little word found in
verse 20
She stands "in hope".  The same God that sent the curse sends the answer for the curse and it is found in the redemption brought by Jesus Christ.  Now remember, Paul has just written about the redeemed being the heirs of God and how we are exalted and glorified with Jesus.   
The truth is there is no hope for any change in the creation from the way it is until the glorious return of Christ and we are changed to be like Him. 
Creation went down with the Fall of man and creation will come back again in the exaltation of man.  In the first three chapters of Genesis, you have the cursed creation.  Cursed because man is corrupt.  In the last three chapters of Revelation, you have the new creation in perfection and righteousness because you have glorified humanity. 
And in between is the sad, long history of sin and corruption.  The two are linked.  What happened to man in the Garden happened to the creation.  What happens to man in glory will happen to the creation as well.  It will be liberated.  So all creation groans, waiting for that to happen.
It's all summed up in
verse 22
 sums it up.
Childbirth pain is pain, but it is a positive pain in that it has a positive result.  Some pain has negative result.  You feel bad, then you get worse and maybe even die.
But childbirth pain basically is the kind of pain that anticipates something wonderful, like great event, something blessed, and that’s the kind of pain that the creation feels.
One day, the pain is over and everything is made new and productive and filled with purpose and beauty.  That is the promise of hope.
So creation groans, and not only that,
2.  Believers Groan for Glory
verse 23
It just makes sense that if creation groans, we as a part of creation, must also groan.  After all, we created the problem.
Paul says, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:24.  You remember 2 Corinthians 5:4 where Paul also says, “In this tent we groan, desiring not to be unclothed but to be clothed upon with our new body, that this mortal shall put on immortality, that death shall be swallowed up in life.”  David groaned in Psalm 38:9:  “All my desire is before You and my groaning is not hid from You.”  We know what it is to groan.  We groan.
So we, like creation, groan for deliverance.  In verse 23, it is
- the adoption
You say, “Wait a minute, we were already adopted.  You told us that in 14 to 16 in this chapter, that we have been adopted.” 
Yes, we have been adopted but we don’t have our inheritance yet.  And to what is our inheritance connected? 
The end of verse 23 says it is "the redemption of our body."
We’ve already been adopted formally into the family of God.  We are the children of God.  We have the Holy Spirit leading us now.  We have the Spirit of adoption by which we cry “Abba, Father.”  We sense that intimacy with God.  The Spirit is testifying with our spirit – verse 16 – that we’re the children of God.  So we have been adopted but we have not received our inheritance.
So we groan for the day when this mortal shall put on immortality, when this corruptible shall put on incorruption, when death shall be swallowed up with life.  We groan for that experience.  We want to be clothed with our heavenly body, like unto His glorious body, Philippians chapter 3.  Paul even calls these vile bodies, our flesh, our fallenness, our humanness, our sin.  We can’t wait.  Thankful for grace but we can’t wait to go from grace to glory. 
So how can we be sure we're going to make it?
verse 23
The guarantee is the presence of the Holy Spirit in us.  We already have the first fruits of the Spirit.  That doesn’t mean something that comes from the Spirit, not first fruits from the Spirit, but the first fruits of the future promise from God who is the Spirit. 
The Spirit is the first fruits.  He is the first installment.  First fruits was the little bit of the crop that the farmer pulled first, the first part that came in while the rest was still reaching its full bloom.  He would pull in the first and he would know what the future crop would be like by the first that came. 
The Holy Spirit is the first fruits of the full crop that God has prepared for His people.  He is the installment, the down payment, the engagement ring, the seal, the pledge, all that language is found in Paul’s writings.  And He is the Spirit of promise.  That’s the hope of the redeemed.  Colossians 1:27:  “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
And until that happens, we groan.  And the older you get, the more you groan!  You groan more because you can do less.  You groan more because you have more to groan about.  Not only personally in your own body, but things are going on around you that make you groan. 
I didn’t used to groan so much about the way things were in the world when I was a lot younger.  I didn’t groan so much about the loss of life and the challenges.  But when you look around and see brothers and sisters hurting and children hurting and the world hurting, you groan. And your prayer becomes, "Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!"
We  live in hope, but that hope burns brightest as we grow older and experience more of living in a corrupt and fallen world.  I’m not trying to fix the world.  I’m just waiting for the day when the Lord puts it to an end and creates a new heaven and a new earth.  We live in hope. 
What does verse 24 say?
verse 24
In other words, we’re saved by faith, but we’re saved in hope because our salvation is not full yet.  You’re nearer now to salvation than when you first believed.  That is the future aspect of it.  So we live in hope for what we don’t see.  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we eagerly wait for it.
What keeps our perseverance strong?  What keeps our hope bright?  It’s the ministry of the Spirit of God in us, the first fruit deposit of the Holy Spirit. 
He is the one leading us, He is the one confirming our adoption, the Spirit of adoption by which we cry, “Abba, Father.”  He is the one testifying with our spirit that we’re the children of God.  He holds us, secures us, causes us to have a persevering hope with which we wait for the return of Christ.  And we wait for our own future glory.  So creation groans and believers groan.
And the Holy Spirit groans.  We'll look at that next time.
Let's pray.
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