6 June 2020Romans 8:22-27
‘... we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies’ (v. 23)
Psalm: Psalm 139
Prior to this passage, Paul has described how the creation itself suffers in this age and so waits in "eager longing" for the "revealing of the children of God", the end when all will be caught up in the freedom of God (8:18-21). Building on the same point, Paul in this passage links the groaning of creation with the groaning of those in Christ (verses 22-23). The creation groans as it yearns for redemption and this points to the holistic salvation that God will bring in the future, a theme found throughout the Old Testament (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:17-25; Ezekiel 36:8-12). Christians ‘groan inwardly’ as they know the gap between the salvation for which they yearn and the fallen nature of the world in which they live. As Paul puts it, those who have experienced the "first fruits of the Spirit" await with eagerness the full harvest (verse 23)!
Paul described the hope in terms of "adoption, the redemption of our bodies" (v. 23). Earlier in Romans 8, Paul has depicted as adoption as a present gift, and one bound up with life in the Spirit (8:15-16). Here, Paul associates it with the future. While we do experience what it means to be children of God now, we will experience it more fully and concretely in the future – when our bodies too experience redemption. Since we cannot yet see this, we wait for it in hope, trusting that the God who has begun the process of redemption will bring it to completion in the future.
In the second paragraph of this passage, Paul highlights the role of the Spirit in helping us to pray. Since we do not always know how to pray, the Spirit helps us "with sighs too deep for words" (v. 23). Some think that Paul here is alluding to the gift of tongues, but the reference to sighing probably signals the generally difficulty faced in prayer. In such situations, Paul assures us, we can trust that the Spirit within us is ‘interceding’ for us to God. Even when our prayers seem hopeless and difficult, the Spirit is at work.
- How do you experience the "groaning of creation" at this present time?
- In what ways might Paul’s words about the Spirit in this passage encourage you in prayer?