(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 5/18/03 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's read Romans 8, verses 14 through 25:
Romans 8: (14) For as many as are led by [the] Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (15) For you did not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption by which we cry, Abba! Father! (16) The Spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God. (17) And if children, also heirs; truly heirs of God, and joint-heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer together, that we may also be glorified together. (18) For I calculate that the sufferings of the present time [are] not worthy [to compare to] the coming glory to be revealed in us. (19) For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly awaits the revelation of the sons of God. (20) For the creation was not willingly subjected to vanity, but through Him subjecting [it], on hope; (21) that also the creation will be freed from the slavery of corruption to the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (22) For we know that all the creation groans together and travails together until now. (23) And not only [so], but also we ourselves having the firstfruit of the Spirit, also we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly expecting adoption, the redemption of our body; (24) for we were saved by hope, but hope being seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he also hope? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, through patience we wait eagerly.
Two weeks ago, we went over verses 19 through 22 and saw that all of non-human creation intensely looks forward to the time when the children of God are glorified at the end of the age, because creation is currently in a state of death and decay due to the sin of Adam, and it will be free from this slavery to corruption when all of God's people are glorified. All of creation moans in pain together, like mothers in childbirth, earnestly expecting and eagerly awaiting the time when it is free, when there will be an end of the current corrupted heavens and earth and the beginning of the new heavens and earth that are free from corruption and vanity when the Lord returns. That new heavens and new earth are prepared for us, the children of God.
Now in verse 23, we see that it is not only the non-human creation that groans in eager expectation. We, too, as God's children, groan within ourselves. The first thing we see is that we, the children of God, have the firstfruit of the Spirit. What is a "firstfruit"? A "firstfruit" is the first pickings of the fruit of the season. It is an indication of what is to come. If your firstfruits aren't so good, then you don't expect to have a very good season. If your firstfruits are good, then you expect the season to be good and productive. Here, the Holy Spirit is called a "firstfruit." The Holy Spirit that indwells us upon regeneration is a first indication in us of what is to come. And, unlike firstfruits in nature, the firstfruit of the Holy Spirit is a GUARANTEE of what is to come. Let's turn over to 2 Corinthians 1:20-22:
2 Corinthians 1: (20) For as many promises as [are] of God, in Him [they are] yes, and in Him [are] Amen, for glory to God through us. (21) But He confirming us and anointing us with you in Christ [is] God, (22) even He having sealed us, and having given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.
God has sealed us and has given us the EARNEST of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. An "earnest" is money given by a purchaser as a pledge for the full payment of the sum promised. It's a down-payment that guarantees that the payor will make full payment in the future. God's promises are YES and AMEN, and He gives us the Holy Spirit as a pledge, as a guarantee, that what He has promised will come to pass. God promises every one of His people final glory conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. There is NO DOUBT that He will fulfill that promise. And He gives us His Holy Spirit to show us the certainty of His promise. This fits right in with what we saw about faith a little while back. Hebrews 11:1 shows us that FAITH is the ASSURANCE that what is EXPECTED based on God's PROMISE, which is final glory in heaven, will HAPPEN. It is the CONVICTION of the fulfillment of that PROMISE. So the indwelling Holy Spirit gives us FAITH in God's promise, and His very presence in us SHOWS us that He is faithful to keep His promise. Not only does the Holy Spirit witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, as we saw in Romans 8:16, but the Holy Spirit is a witness that final glory is as sure and certain as if we were already there. The firstfruit of the Holy Spirit is a GUARANTEE that the season's harvest will be the best, meaning that we will be glorified with Christ in heaven.
Let's go back to Romans 8:23. Because we have the firstfruit of the Spirit within us that is the earnest of our final glory, we groan. The Greek word for "groan" here has the same root as the word for "groans together" in verse 22. This time, it's individual groaning. But it's not a groaning out of discontent or annoyance or indignation; it's a groaning out of EXPECTATION. It's a groaning out of a certain HOPE based on God's promise of final glory conditioned on the work of Jesus Christ alone. We already have the firstfruit of the Spirit, so we know we are guaranteed heaven, not based on our own works, our own stewardship, our own obedience, but based on the finished work of Christ that ensured the final glory of everyone for whom He died. So, with this promise of final glory, we are EAGERLY AWAITING, EARNESTLY EXPECTING, INTENSELY ANTICIPATING the fulfillment of that promise. At the end of verse 23, we see two things that describe the fulfillment of God's promise of final glory. The first one is ADOPTION. We, the children of God, eagerly expect ADOPTION. But wait a minute. Aren't we already adopted into God's family when God regenerates us? Yes we are, as we saw in verses 14 through 17. We have gone from being the children of the devil to being the children of God, and we cry "Abba! Father!" by the Spirit of adoption that is given to us upon regeneration. So what does it mean that we are "eagerly expecting adoption"? Well, take a look at the end of verse 19. It says, "the revelation of the sons of God." This is something that is going to happen when all of God's people will be glorified. The sons of God will be revealed. Thus, the "adoption" talked about here is the FULL REVELATION and FULL BENEFITS of adoption that will happen in final glory. It is a COMPLETION of what was begun, a granting of FULL PRIVILEGES of sonship and joint-heirship. We as Christians are groaning in expectation of the full revelation and benefits of our sonship. The second thing that describes the fulfillment of God's promise of final glory is "the redemption of our body." This is talking about a specific kind of redemption - the redemption of our physical bodies. It is the redemption of our bodies from corruption, decay, and death. We will have new, glorified bodies. As we saw in verse 11, our physical, mortal bodies will be raised as glorified, immortal, spiritual bodies through the Holy Spirit. This parallels what is going to happen with non-human creation. Non-human creation is going to be freed from corruption, decay, and death. There will be new heavens and a new earth. All of creation will be redeemed except for the reprobates and fallen angels. So, just as creation groans in eager anticipation, the children of God groan in eager anticipation of that final day in which all God's people will be glorified and there will be a new heavens and a new earth. And our glorification is sure and certain based on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.
Let's go on to verses 24 and 25:
Romans 8: (24) for we were saved by hope, but hope being seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he also hope? (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, through patience we wait eagerly.
The word "hope" occurs five times in these two verses. The Greek word for "hope" means certain expectation, anticipation, or confidence. Sometimes, in our day, when people think of "hope," they think of a wish for something that may not happen, or a desire for something that is not certain. So when we say, "I hope this will happen" or "I hope this is true," we're not talking about something that is totally certain. We're DESIRING that this is the case, but we're not TOTALLY CONFIDENT that this is the case. But it is very important for us to realize that this Greek word that is translated "hope" here is NOT talking about that kind of uncertain hope. THIS hope is a CERTAIN CONFIDENT EXPECTATION that something will happen. We saw this in Hebrews 11:1 in the definition of faith. Faith is the essence of things being HOPED. It is the ASSURANCE of what is EXPECTED. Because this word and concept of hope is so important, I'd like for us to take a look at quite a few verses that use this same Greek word so we totally understand what this word means:
Acts 2: (26) For this reason My heart rejoiced, and My tongue was glad; and My flesh also will dwell on hope,
Acts 26: (6) And now for [the] hope of the promise having been made by God to the fathers, I stand being judged; (7) to which our twelve tribes hope to arrive, worshiping in earnestness night and day, concerning which hope I am accused by the Jews, king Agrippa.
Romans 5: (2) through whom also we have had access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we glory on the hope of the glory of God. (3) And not only so, but we glory also in afflictions, knowing that affliction works out patience, (4) and patience [works out] proven character; and proven character, hope. (5) And the hope does not put [us] to shame, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through [the] Holy Spirit given to us;
2 Corinthians 1:7:
2 Corinthians 1: (7) and our hope for you [is] certain, knowing that even as you are sharers of the sufferings, so also of the comfort.
2 Corinthians 3:11-12:
2 Corinthians 3: (11) For if the thing done away was through glory, much rather the thing remaining [is] in glory. (12) Then having such hope, we use much boldness.
Galatians 5: (5) For we through [the] Spirit eagerly wait for [the] hope of righteousness out of faith.
Ephesians 1: (18) the eyes of your mind having been enlightened, for you to know what is the hope of His calling, and what [are] the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
Philippians 1: (20) according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but as always in all boldness even now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life or through death.
Colossians 1: (5) because of the hope being laid up for you in Heaven, which you heard before in the Word of the truth of the gospel, ... (27) to whom God willed to make known what [are] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the nations, who is Christ in you, the hope of glory;
1 Thessalonians 2:19:
1 Thessalonians 2: (19) For what [is] our hope, or joy, or crown of glorying? [Are] not even you, before our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?
1 Thessalonians 5:8:
1 Thessalonians 5: (8) But we being of day should be sober, "having put on [the] breastplate" of faith and love, and [the] hope of "salvation [as] a helmet;"
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17:
2 Thessalonians 2: (16) But may our Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, and our God and Father, the [One] having loved us and having given everlasting comfort and good hope by grace, (17) encourage your hearts, and may He establish you in every good word and work.
1 Timothy 1:1:
1 Timothy 1: (1) Paul an apostle of Jesus Christ according to a command of God our Savior, even [the] Lord Jesus Christ, [our] Hope,
Titus 1: (2) on hope of eternal life which the God who does not lie promised before [the] eternal times,
Titus 2: (13) looking for the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,
Titus 3: (7) that being justified by His grace, we should become heirs according to [the] hope of eternal life.
Hebrews 6: (11) But we desire each of you to show the same eagerness, to the full assurance of the hope to [the] end; ... (18) that through two unchangeable things, in which [it was] not possible [for] God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, those having fled to lay hold on the hope set before [us],
Hebrews 10: (23) let us hold fast the confession of the hope unyielding, for He who has promised is faithful.
1 Peter 1:3:
1 Peter 1: (3) Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, He according to His great mercy having regenerated us to a living hope through [the] resurrection of Jesus Christ from [the] dead,
1 John 3:2-3
1 John 3: (2) Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it was not yet revealed what we shall be. But we know that if He is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. (3) And everyone having this hope on Him purifies himself even as that [One] is pure.
Do you see what "hope" means? It is certain expectation. It is that expectation that we saw in verse 23. So, with this in mind, let's look at these two verses that talk about hope.
The first thing we see is the phrase "for we were saved by hope." Now that's a strange-sounding phrase. Here again, there are many different interpretations of this phrase. Let's first establish what it CANNOT mean. It CANNOT mean that hope is the cause or condition of salvation. Salvation is conditioned solely on the work of Jesus Christ. So what could this mean? I think there are two plausible interpretations of this. The first is that the phrase should be translated "for we were saved IN hope." Turn over to Ephesians 4:4:
Ephesians 4: (4) [There is] one body and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling;
Here we see that we were called IN hope. Being called and saved in hope would mean that our calling and salvation is in the hope of glory. When we were saved, we were given that certain confident expectation of glory based on God's promise of salvation conditioned on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ alone. The second plausible interpretation is that the phrase should be translated "for we were saved THROUGH hope." This is like the phrase in Romans 3:28 "that a man is justified by faith." Faith is the INSTRUMENT through which we receive the imputed righteousness of Christ and are justified. With hope being a necessary part of faith, this could be talking about hope being the instrument through which we receive salvation. Either way, it is clear that HOPE is an essential element of salvation. HOPE is an inevitable and immediate fruit or result of regeneration. HOPE is something that every single believer without exception possesses. If one does not have HOPE, he is not saved. This ties right in with the sermon I preached on assurance a little while ago. Those who do not believe they are saved do not have HOPE, and those who do not have HOPE are not saved.
Okay, let's go back to Romans 8:24 and look at the next phrase: "but hope being seen is not hope." HOPE is an expectation about something in the FUTURE. If something is seen and experienced NOW, then it is not something that is HOPED for. For example, if I am HOPING or EXPECTING Chris to visit tomorrow, it is an expectation of a future event. However, it doesn't make any sense to say that I am HOPING or EXPECTING Chris to be here today, since he's already here. The very definition of hope makes it impossible to hope for something that has already happened or is already happening. The last phrase of this verse is a question that emphasizes the obvious: "for what anyone sees, why does he also hope?" Paul is saying that this is an impossibility, even an absurdity. If someone already sees or experiences something, he's not hoping for it. If Chris is right here with us, why would we HOPE that Chris would be right here with us? It would be absurd for me to say, "I hope I'm standing here before you right now" or "I expect that I am standing here before you right now." Hope and expectation are talking about future, unseen, unexperienced events.
This again reminds us of the definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1, doesn't it? Let's turn over there again:
Hebrews 11: (1) Now faith is [the] essence of things being hoped, the evidence of things not having been seen.
Let's focus on the last part. Faith is the EVIDENCE of things NOT BEING SEEN. Faith is a belief in the unseen. It would be absurd for me to say that I have faith that Chris is here with us. Faith is the ASSURANCE of what is being HOPED, and it is the EVIDENCE of what is NOT SEEN. So we could even insert the word "faith" in Romans 8:24: "for we were saved by faith, but faith being seen is not faith."
So, back in Romans 8, we see this in the context of eagerly expecting adoption and the redemption of our bodies. Since we HOPE for the full revelation and full benefits of adoption, and since we HOPE for new, glorified bodies, that means that we have NOT YET experienced the full revelation and full benefits of adoption, and we have NOT YET experienced new, glorified bodies.
On to verse 25:
Romans 8: (25) But if we hope for what we do not see, through patience we wait eagerly.
This ties it all in with our eager expectation of final glory. If we HOPE for final glory, which includes the full benefits of adoption and being glorified with Christ in heaven, then we are waiting PATIENTLY and EAGERLY. The Greek word for "patience" means endurance, perseverance, or continuance. The Greek word for "wait eagerly" is the same word we saw in verse 19 that was translated "eagerly awaits." It means strongly, intensely looking forward. Now some might think that "patiently" and "eagerly" are opposites. How can a person be PATIENT about something and yet be EAGER about it? Well, we need to realize that our EAGERNESS, our INTENSE LOOKING FORWARD, even to the point of GROANING within ourselves while we look for final glory, cannot be equated with IMPATIENCE. Even WHILE we endure and persevere, we are EAGERLY LOOKING TOWARD the day of glory. We are running the race with patient endurance, looking to Jesus Christ and to our final glory in heaven with Him. Let's read Philippians 3:7-14 and 20-21:
Philippians 3: (7) But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss because of Christ. (8) But, no, rather I also count all things to be loss because of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count [them to be] trash, that I might gain Christ (9) and be found in Him; not having my own righteousness of Law, but through the faith of Christ, [having] the righteousness of God on faith, (10) to know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, having been conformed to His death, (11) if somehow I may attain to a resurrection out of the dead. (12) Not that I already received or already have been perfected, but I press on, if I also may lay hold, inasmuch as I also was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. (13) Brothers, I do not count myself to have laid hold, but one [thing I do], forgetting the things behind, and stretching forward to those things before, (14) I press on after a mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. ... (20) For our citizenship is in Heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, [the] Lord Jesus Christ, (21) who will transform our body of humiliation, for it to be conformed to His body of glory, according to the working [of] Him to be able even to subject all things under Himself.