15 February 2014

Romans 8:18-30

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (vv. 15-16)


Suddenly the breadth of Paul's vision has been expanded beyond human beings to the whole of creation. It is no longer simply human beings that will be set free from the sphere of sin and death, but all of creation. He uses the image of the labour pains of giving birth to a child to describe the sufferings of creation and human beings together (verse 22). But as always with this image, there is the promise of life after the pain.

Paul is describing for us the tension that exists for someone who is living in the Holy Spirit between the two spheres of the present world, which is decaying, and the hope of what is yet to come. He is recognising that even if we have chosen to life in the sphere of Christ, the sphere of the Spirit, the realities of this world are still all around us. In particular we can see how creation itself and our bodies which are part of this creation are subject to decay. But just as the humans and creation are linked in this process of decay there is also a link between the final end of human beings and creation. According to Paul, when the children of God are revealed, the whole of creation will also be redeemed. In other words, all of creation will enter fully into the sphere of life and grace.

But this passage is primarily concerned with encouraging those who want to follow Christ in the face of sufferings and setbacks in the meantime. It recognises the weaknesses of some of his listeners who don't even know how to pray (verse 26). For those who see little purpose in their struggles he reassures them of a larger purpose behind it all. There is here an exhortation to hope and faith reminiscent of that found in Hebrews 11:1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

To Ponder

  • Do you agree with Paul that the sufferings of this time are not worth comparing with what is to come?
  • What does this passage teach us, if anything, about our relationship and responsibility to the environment?
  • How do you pray?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jonathan Mead

Jonathan is a Methodist minister, who works part time in the London NW Mission circuit and part time as a learning and development officer in the London District. He enjoys keeping fit, reading history and visiting Mediterranean destinations..