We are studying together and we find ourselves in Romans chapter eight. And so we're going to pick up in our verse by verse study through the book of Romans, where we are now in Romans chapter eight. And even though we have looked at the first several verses of this chapter, we're going to go back and look at verse one all over again in order to pick up the train of thought here. We remember that in Romans chapter seven, Paul was talking about the struggle with sin, and he ended Romans chapter seven by saying, “Oh, what a wretched man that I am! Who shall rescue me from this body of death?” A rhetorical question, because he not only asked the question, he will quickly answer it. And he says, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” There's one way of rescue. That is the singular truth of Christianity.
There is one and only one means of rescue. And that is Jesus Christ. Paul understands that even as he observes himself, what he sees in the mirror is a sinner. And the problem with being a sinner is you can't extricate yourself from that problem. There is literally no way out, because the more you try to work your way out of sin, the more you find that it is an impossible reality. And in our power and our strength, there's no way out of this. There's no way to undo the sin problem. The only answer, the only rescue is going to come from outside of ourselves. And that comes through Jesus Christ. Paul tells us that at the end of Romans chapter seven, and then when we begin in Romans chapter eight, verse one, we come across one of those three great “therefore’s” of the book of Romans.
We encountered one already in Romans five one. Now Romans eight one, we will encounter yet a third Romans 12 one. But Paul says here, “therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Jesus.” Now lest we go pass this too quickly, “No condemnation,” you'll notice he doesn't say “There's a modified condemnation.” He doesn't say, “There's a lesser condemnation.” “There is now no condemnation.” So it isn't that Jesus paid it mostly. Or her Jesus paid a lot. It's, “Jesus paid it all.” That's the song we sing. And this is why it's because the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ was fully satisfactory. When Jesus Christ shed his blood on Calvary's cross for the remission of our sins, he paid the entire penalty. And because his sacrifice was received by the Father as completely acceptable, there is now no condemnation, but there's now no condemnation for specific persons.
And that is for those who are in Christ Jesus. Now all the way back in Romans chapter seven, we talked about Paul's notion of the believer’s mystical union with Christ. And this is very important. It's not only that we are associated with Christ. It's not only that we believe in him. It is that we are now (you see the preposition here) in him. We are now in his work. We are now in his people. We are now in his body because the church is described as the body of Christ. And the believer having been regenerated, having been renewed, having been redeemed, is now incorporated into the body of Christ. We are now in Christ Jesus. We are now in a mystical union. When we say “mystical,” it means a mysterious union with Christ. We are united with him. And Paul goes on to say in verse two, as he explains this work “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” The law of the Spirit of life.
Now, again, Paul has a dichotomy in view. The dichotomy is between flesh and spirit. Jesus in John chapter six says. “The Spirit gives life.” The flesh profits nothing. And this dichotomy is a central metaphor for understanding the Christian life: flesh versus spirit. Now in the most important way, Paul here is not saying that this is the believer’s reality. At this point, he's not mainly focusing on the believer’s struggle with sin. That will come later. This is on the before-and-after picture. This is the before-our-salvation, when we were slaves to sin. And when we serve the flesh versus the after-our-salvation, when by the grace of God there's now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. And we now live by the Spirit, “for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”
So there was a law. It's not now that there is no law. It is that now there is a new law. The old law led to sin and death. But this new law that operates in the Christian life leads to life. It has set us free from the law of sin and death. And then at verse three, we come across one of those great explanatory verses. We need this. Verse three helps to explain everything we have read in the entire book of Romans, everything we studied until this moment. “For what the law could not do, weak as it was, through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.” Now think about Romans 8:3 and look back to Romans chapter three, beginning at verse 21. Paul is a wonderful teacher because, in repetitive cycles, he comes back to the same truth.
He amplifies it. He magnifies it and then he moves on and he says, “Let's go back. Let's remember that touchstone in chapter three beginning at verse 21.” Now listen if this isn't almost exactly what we're hearing in Romans chapter eight, but we understand it better now that we're in Romans chapter eight than we did when we were at Romans chapter three verse 21: “But now apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been being witnessed by the law and the prophets. Even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, for all who believe. For there is no distinction, for all of us sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Here's this part, listen: “being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption, which is in Christ, Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness because in the forbearance of God, he passed over the sins previously committed for the demonstration I say of his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Now in Romans chapter three, Paul is here, steadfastly, determined to show us that God saves sinners without compromising his own righteousness. Now, when we come to chapter eight verse three, we're told again that what the law couldn't do, God did, but not only was it fully in accord with his own righteousness, he demanded the sacrifice and he provided the sacrifice. It is also fully effective for our salvation. He condemned sin in the flesh. In whose flesh? In the flesh of the Lord Jesus Christ. The penalty for sin was paid. The Lord did not cancel the penalty for sin.
He demanded the penalty for sin, but he provided the penalty for sin through Jesus Christ, the Son. Thus, he condemned sin in the flesh. Our flesh would not do, because we are sinners. What the law could not do weak as it was through the flesh. God did. And then in verse four, there again is a verse that hearkens back to Romans chapter three, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us. So the requirement of the law is fulfilled in us. That's the amazing thing. The requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the spirit. The penalty for our sin was paid in full, but as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that we are not the one who paid it. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, but it was paid in full.
And the Lord received the sacrifice on the Son. Absolutely. And having received the sacrifice, the requirement of the law was met. And it's met in those who are now described the believers, the redeemed, as those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Now we pick up with new material in verse five: “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh. But those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death. But the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.”
This gets down to the disposition of the heart. We look across humanity, and again, there are all kinds of distinctions people would make.: there are racial distinction, socio-economic distinctions. There are political distinctions, demographic distinctions, all kinds of distinctions of culture and ethnicity and other kinds of demographic factors. But none of them matters. In the span of eternity, none of those distinctions matter at all. And the “all” passages in Romans should be enough to convince us of that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All those distinctions wither away when you understand that the diagnosis for each one of us is sinner, but all those distinctions also melt away. When we understand that there's only one real distinction that matters. And that's the distinction between the saved and the lost, between those who are in Christ and those who are not. Paul wants us to see that distinction.
He's going to make that distinction very, very clear, not only in these verses, but in what's going to follow, especially after chapter 12, where he's going to deal with how Christian should look in the world, how we should live in the world, think in the world, negotiate, navigate in the world. He's going to be very clear that we should stand out, not as those who are conformed to the world, but who are transformed by the renewing of the mind. But right now his concern is between those who are in Christ and those who are not.
And you'll notice that he says here that there are those who are according to the flesh and that there are those who are according to the Spirit. Now let me suggest to you that there is a very dangerous misreading of this passage that you will sometimes find among some Christians, some evangelicals, some very well-meaning, well-intentioned evangelicals who aren't following closely Paul's logic in the book of Romans. They will suggest that within the Christian, there's a war between the flesh and the spirit. Now that is dangerously somewhat true. And we know that's the case, isn't it? We still struggle with sin. We still struggle with temptations and all the rest. But the misreading of this text is to believe that there could be believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who live according to the flesh. This is the myth of the carnal Christian.
And there are those who teach that there are carnal - meaning “flesh,” by the way, in the Latin - Christians. They simply are believers, but they don't live like believers. Paul doesn't know about those people. Now let me tell you, he doesn’t mean that he doesn't know Christians who do not sin. That's different, but here's the difference: a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ cannot sin without an inevitable consequence suffering the tortures of conscience. Is that distinction clear? You see if one is able to sin without any remorse, without any concern, without any grief, without any repentance, then I think Paul is telling us that person's not a believer. Now we know that there are believers who for some time live in rebellion. For some time, they may live with a rebellion against God's word and live with obvious sin, even public sin, even publicly known and notorious sin, but they cannot for long stay in that state of sin without their troubled conscience, by the work of the Spirit, bringing them back to repentance. There's simply no notion in the New Testament of someone who is merely an intellectual believer in the Lord Jesus Christ but is not a follower of Christ. That's what Paul wants to make clear here. Those who are according to the flesh, they're not believers. Contrasted with them are those who are according to the Spirit. in verse six, he makes very clear the mindset on the flesh is death.
Now he can't talk that way about believers. Paul won't talk that way about believers. Believers are those who are safe, as he will make clear at the end of this passage. That's what's so important. You'll see by the time we get down to the end of Romans chapter eight, this majestic passage on God's protection of believers, we're going to understand that he would not speak of believers as those who would be spiritually dead. “But the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” By the way, the word used for “life” just the common word that we would think of where there was once death. The word “peace” is the characteristic word that Paul uses in his greetings. At the very beginning of his letter, it means not only the absence of hostility. It means the presence of wholeness. It's this beautiful picture of peace. It means more than just not being at war.
Paul continues to tell us that the mindset on the flesh is hostile toward God. I was talking to a group of Christians just in the last couple of days there in Georgia. I was talking about the Christian worldview and trying to tie it all together. It was a leadership conference for the Sunday school teachers of the church. Now you're going to love this. I was asked to go down and spend two days with the Sunday school teachers of this church. And I want to tell you why I did it. It's because this is a church down there at First Baptist Woodstock that is so intentional about Bible teaching. Now, when I talked to the Sunday school teachers of the church, I was talking to 650 Sunday school teachers in one church. That’s incredible. And twice a year, they have these big conferences on how to teach.
And I think it's an incredible idea. It was great. I enjoyed being there with them. And I got there and discovered that I had four one-hour sessions. They snuck out between a couple of the sessions to get a donut and some orange juice and came right back. I was very impressed. But when I was talking about the Christian worldview, I was talking about the realities of sin. And I said, “You know, in order to understand and diagnose the human problem, we've got to have that one word the world doesn't understand and doesn't like one bit. And that's the word sin. Because if you take that word and that truth out of our theological vocabulary, we have no way to explain humanity. We have no way to explain ourselves.
We have no way to explain the problem.” But I said, “You'll notice that that when you are dealing with sinners, you've got to look beneath the sins to the sin. You know, so often we look at the sins, but you got to look at the sin.” And I talked about this as a parent. I said, “You know, when you're looking at a child, you can easily look at your own child and think, ‘This kid is all right, except for these little sins.’ But the Bible says, he's a sinner. Well, that's a different thing than just sending. That means that from birth, the Bible tells us, we are opposed to God. We are hostile to God. Now, how does that turn out? It means that we want our own way. We want to be self-actualizing human beings. We want to be autonomous individuals. We want to be able to have our own way set our own course live by our own rules.”
And that's precisely the kind of hostility Paul's talking about here in verse seven: “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God.” Now we really don't like language quite this harsh, because it would be more comfortable if Paul said, “You know, sinners, well, they sin. And sinners, they don't quite understand everything. And sinners, they fail to see what they're missing.” But Paul goes right to the heart of matter. He cuts far beneath all of those concerns and says, “They're hostile toward God.” Now that's the picture of all of us in our sin. Remember when we already were studying back in Romans, we said, “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” So in other words, Christ died coming for the enemies of God. He came to redeem God's enemies. Those who were hostile to God. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God.”
We need to know that. We need to know that it's not some kind of mild disposition. It's not some kind of just being out of sync. It's being hostile toward God, “for it does not subject itself to the law of God for it is not even able to do so.” Oh no. That last part we need, that two sinners can't please God. It's not just that they don't want to; it's that they can't. There's no righteousness in us that will please God. And there's nothing we can do that would please God. there's no way we can dig ourselves out of the hole of our own sin.
“And those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” You know, Paul really came to understand that in his own personal testimony. What does he say? He says, “I came to understand that my righteousness was as filthy rags. I spent all my life as a Pharisee, trying to please God. That's what I wanted to do. That's what the Pharisees were all about.” He said, “I was a Jew born of the tribe of Benjamin. I did everything right. I studied. I devoted myself to prayer. I fasted. I did all the things Pharisees do to try to prove themselves righteous. And I finally found out there was nothing. I could do that in my hostility toward God. In my state as a sinner, there was nothing I could do that could please God, for those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Now in verse nine, there's this big change.
There's a “however.” On the other hand, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Now he's not talking to some Christian saying, “Some of you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit.” He's writing to believers. If you are a believer, then you're not of the flesh. You are in the Spirit. Now again, he's already told us that doesn't mean we do not sin. It does mean we cannot be satisfied in our sin. It does mean that we cannot sin and give ourselves to sin. It does mean that the Holy Spirit of God is working within us to convict us of our sin and to bring us to repentance.
“You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him.” There you go. If you just read this carefully, this means that if you don't have the Spirit of God, then you don't belong to Christ. So again, we're at that distinction between believers and unbelievers. We're not talking about two different kinds of believers, faithful believers and unfaithful believers, carnal believers and spiritual believers. We're talking about believers and unbelievers. And that's a very, very important point. “If Christ is in you though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” A little turn in the argument here. Okay. “If Christ is in us,” Paul says, “though the body is dead because of sin yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” I can remember as a young Christian trying to come to grips with the fact that my body was dead now. Not dead yet, but dead as eventual.
But the spirit is alive. We all still struggle with that, don't we? There's a “me” in here somewhere that is associated with his body but isn't limited to this body. Tell me you agree with this. Okay, good. You know that the is you, but you're more than the body. And there's one thing to be 15 trying to figure this out and another thing to be 45. Because at 15, all the signs are that you're more alive every day, but at 45, every time you run the hairbrush, there's death in it. You're going to look at that and think, you know, those hairs were once in my head, they have let go, and they're not coming back. Even when the things start to sag. I all of a sudden realized that there are lines in my face that weren't there before. And I don't think they're going away.
There's a big difference between being 15 and 45, but you know what? The 15 year old's body is just as dead as the 95 year old's body in terms of spiritual realities. But by the same token, in the 15-year-old believer and a 115-year-old believer, the spirit is just as alive. And this is a tremendous promise to us as we look at this. And we realize that he's talking here about eschatological realities. Realities at the end, realities when the Lord consummates all things. It is the promise of the resurrection of Christ as our resurrection as well. That's where he's going to be headed here. “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin. Yet, the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” Here's the resurrection. Look at verse 11: “But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the Spirit of God, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” So the wages of sin is death. Remember we read that the wages of sin is death. Our bodies are going die, and believers die. The eternal life that is God's work and gift to us through Christ is not the perpetuation of this earthly frame. Believers die pretty much on schedule, but there's the promise of Christ’s resurrection. We do not die as those who are spiritually dead, but as those who are spiritually alive, and even our mortal bodies will be resurrected as the Lord raised the body of Jesus Christ.
“So then brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh to live according to the flesh for if you were living, according to the flesh, you must die. But if by the Spirit you were putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit are being led by the Spirit of God. These are the sons of God.” This dichotomy between “flesh” and “Spirit” comes to a conclusion here, where in verse 12 we are told that we are under obligation, but we're under obligation to the Spirit, not to the flesh. “Those who are of the flesh are under obligation to the flesh.” Now, what would it mean to live under obligation to the flesh? Let's think about it for a minute. The flesh demands to be satisfied. And the unbeliever answers that by satisfying the flesh. We can understand that, but the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ can't live that way.
It's a very different life by a very different set of priorities and a very different power that is within us. “We are under obligation not to the flesh to live according to the flesh, but to the Spirit.” Paul will interrupt himself here. But his point is, “But to the Spirit, because we live by the spirit. For, if you're living according to the flesh, you must die.” Paul here gets at the verdict. The wages of sin is death. “But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live.” So that's a reference to our sanctification. There's God's work within us after our salvation. It's a progressive work where the Holy Spirit works within us to conform us to the image of Christ, and thus in the healthy, mature, faithful believer, it is not that we do not sin, but it is that we find ourselves conquering areas of sin in our life by the power of God within us. It does mean that as the Holy Spirit works within us, we no longer even desire some of the things we desired before. It is a progressive sanctification. And as the Holy Spirit reorders and rewires our thinking and our desiring and our moral consciousness and all the rest, we find that we can't even understand why we once thought as we once thought. “I don't even know why I used to do that. I don't even know why I used to think that way. I don't even know why I thought that was a good idea. I don't know why I thought that was a great plan. I don't even want that anymore.” And it's not because we have made ourselves holy; it's because the Holy Spirit is at work within us, conforming us to the image of Christ. [inaudible]
Now in verse 14, there's an enormous turn in this passage. And this is great stuff. “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” Paul's going to leave behind the unbelievers as a topic of his concern for the next several verses. He's going to turn to the church. And as a matter of fact, for more or less, the rest of the book of Romans. That's what he's going to be doing, focusing on the church. And he says, “We, here, are not only those who have been forgiven our sins and incorporated into the body of Christ, but we are those who are being led by the Spirit of God and are the sons of God.” Now that's something that if we didn't have this passage, we wouldn't understand. We are the sons and daughters of God. [inaudible]
You have to go back to the first century and first century Judaism to realize how audacious that statement is. If you go back to the Gospels, and you see Jesus Christ speaking similarly, and you see how the Jewish authorities of the day responded with such venom, with such anger and outrage that someone would claim to be the son of God. Now, obviously when we're talking about Jesus Christ, we're talking about the incarnate Son of the living God, but now Paul says that believers are also in their own way sons of God. We've been adopted. Verse 15: “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons, by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” One of the main New Testament words about our salvation is the word adoption. Now, just as we were beginning the class, we heard about Lisa Golladay going to pick up this little boy. And the Golladay's are going to adopt this child. Now it's a legal process, and it's just heartwarming to hear about it. It's exciting to even think about. We know how adoption works. A child that is not yours by birth is received into your family. And in the process of adoption, you say, “I will now receive this child as my own.” Now, legally, what is the status of an adopted son?
Legally, It's the same as her son by birth. Now, that's an amazing legal reality. It's a beautiful picture of love, because adoption is such a powerful metaphor, because no one has to adopt this child. If a child is yours by birth, the obligation is obvious. But if the child is not yours by birth the obligation is your desire. It is your strategic acceptance of this responsibility. And Terry and Lisa are going to say, “We're going to adopt this child as our own. We're going to treat him as our own. He will be as our son.” Well, when this little boy comes to understand that he'll come to understand that there were two parents who loved him so much that they received him as their own. They clothed them as their own son. They take care of him as their own son. They teach him and discipline them as their own son. He is their own son.
Well, Paul says, that's what our salvation is also about. God has no obligation to forgive sinners. God is under no obligation to do anything on behalf of sinners, but God does this through his Son. And when he saved sinners, he didn't save us merely that we would be transformed from death to life and from sin to grace, but that we will be adopted as his own sons. The spirit of adoption Paul's talking about here is just incredible. He says in verse 15 that by adoption, we're able to cry out, “Abba, Father.” That’s the Aramaic word for father. It's a familiar word. It's a word of love and endearment. We're able to cry out to God as Father. Not only as judge. Not only as the holy omnipotent One of Israel. Not only as the Lord Almighty, but as Father. In verse 16, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit, that we are the children of God.” That's the affirmation. The Holy Spirit continually reminds us of this, that we are the children of God. “And if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with him so that we may be also glorified with him.” Now, when we think of inheritance, we tend to think of stuff, the kind of stuff that is left in a will. And we may wonder where the Christian stuff is.
Well, there's no stuff. It's a lot more important than stuff. It’s an inheritance of that which is of eternal importance. It is an inheritance of an eschatological promise, a promise at the end. It is the inheritance of a promise that all will one day be well. It is the inheritance of a promise that Christ’s work, which was begun in us, will be completed in us. It's an eschatological promise that we are safe in Christ. It's a promise of glorification in verse 17. Now this is one of those doctrines that is tragically overlooked in the church today. When we talk about Christ’s work in us, so often when we present the gospel, we just deal with how we are saved from our sin, how those who are lost are found, those who are the enemies of God are adopted as his sons and daughters.
That's all important, but we need to point out that Christ's work in us is not completed at the moment of our salvation. It is continued in us, and there are two big words. We already used one of them. That's the doctrine of sanctification. Sanct-tu. It’s simply the Latin word “holiness.” So the doctrine of sanctification is the doctrine of how we've become holy by the work of God within us. Now, this is not instantaneous. We're not instantaneously sanctified. We're not sanctified so that we no longer sin or no longer desire sin. It's a progressive work within us, especially the old things pass away. All things become new. And yet sanctification in this life is never, ever completed.
You can go to the nursing home and find the oldest person you can find who has been a saint for even 90 years or something like that. And there's often in these people a holiness that just begins to come out. And as they're facing the end of their life, and as they're reflecting on God's work within, there's often a sweetness and a holiness that just starts to come out, but you know what? They're not finished, because following sanctification comes the promise of our glorification. Now this glorification is an eschatological reality. It comes only at the end of all things. It comes only in connection with judgment and the consummation of the age and all the things that Christ will bring about. But the promise of our glorification is that we once resurrected, and having our resurrection bodies, will be glorified, that is, God's glory will transform us so that our sanctification is absolutely complete.
There will be in us not only no sin, but no memory of sin. There will be within us not only holiness, but absolute perfect holiness. And that is how it is explained that we will be prepared to spend eternity with God before him glorifying him perfectly. The only way we can glorify him perfectly is if we reflect his glory perfectly, and there is no way we can ever achieve that. That's God's gift. And it's the promise of our glorification. And we are told here that those who are adopted through Christ by the Father are given status as joint-heirs with Christ and the promise of our glorification.
Now in verse 18, Paul says, “If we have that kind of process” – and we have it – “we can consider the sufferings of this present time as not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” Now this is a massive and very significant turn in the book of Romans. Because up to this point, just to remind ourselves, Paul's been dealing with conflict in the church over the nature of the gospel. We know that. He tells us that. We know that this was a church that was overwhelmingly Jewish made up of Jewish converts to Christianity, but the Jews were expelled from Rome. And we know that then it became an overwhelmingly Gentile church made up of Gentile converts to Christianity. And then we know that the Jews were allowed back. And so over the process of just two or three decades, this church went back and forth and there was division in the church over the nature of the gospel and over how Israel is related to the church.
We're going to get to that in just a little bit: over just how justification by faith works. Is that the only way to see the gospel? Is there any other way to see the gospel? Paul says, No. Paul goes back and he answers the Jewish believers by saying, “Look, even Abraham understood justification by faith. We followed through all that in Romans chapter four and following. But now he turns this massive shift, and he's no longer really concerned with the confusion over the gospel, because he said all that straight. He's not really confused or concerned at this point about conflict between the Jewish converts and the Gentile converts over the shape of the gospel. He's already dealt with that. But now he's writing to a church at Rome, and you don't have to have much historical knowledge of the Bible to know that this was a church that was facing, even in this time, the threat of persecution suffering. That has a way of clarifying doctrine.
Paul, preparing the church for this suffering, said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time aren't even worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Paul says, “If we really understand the work of Christ in our redemption, then we can suffer virtually anything in this life because of our confidence in what Christ will accomplish in us.” We can face death. We can face martyrdom. We can face persecution. We can face loss. We can face suffering. We can face sickness. We can face injury. We can face virtually anything because of the assured promise of the glory that is to be revealed to us. In verse 19, we read, “For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.”
When we think of redemption, we think in terms of human sin and its obvious effect and the fact that we must be redeemed, or we are lost. Paul has been talking about that redemption, but not only do we often look at the question of salvation in too small a frame and failed to look forward to sanctification and glorification, but we also sometimes look at our salvation in a way that is overly individualistic. I was saved. You were saved. Paul wants us to see that we were saved. And Paul wants us to see the church, the body of Christ, is the company of the redeemed. It's not just about me. It's not just about you. It's about God's determinative purpose to save the people from their sins to his own glory.
But there's more than that. Creation itself shows the effect of human sin. Now, the naturalistic scientist doesn't know that. The materialist just simply doesn't know that, but we know that. We go back to Genesis 1-3, and we come to understand that as soon as sin entered the experience of the cosmos through Adam’s sin, death entered. All kinds of things were set in motion. Predation. Animals began to eat each other. Death entered. Not only predation, but there were cosmic consequences to our sin: earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, horrible storms. Paul wants us to look at all that and see that creation itself is crying out for redemption. This is not the way it was supposed to be. Had sin never happened, the entire universe would be as Eden: perfect and peaceful and absolutely oblivious to the reality of sin.
It's important that we realize that Paul is telling us here that the entire cosmos is the arena of God's story of redemption. And the entire cosmos shows the effects of our sin, and that's why we are told that our redemption is also going to be the redemption of the physical world. When you get to the book of Revelation, there's a new heaven and a new earth. Things are as God intended them to be without sin. Now that also explains why in a new heaven and a new earth, only Christians will be there, those who have been glorified, because otherwise we would mess it up again. But in this new creation, we won't mess it up because we will be no longer able to sin.
Paul tells us that not only can we face suffering, but even the entire creation, which in its own way suffers, is now waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Now there are those in the world of political correctness, who would say that that statement is hopelessly species-ist. It just puts human beings at the pinnacle of creation and says, “All the creation is waiting to see what God's going to do in human beings. That's hopelessly species-ist. Who do we think we are?” Well, we're the sons and daughters of God. The Bible tells us that that's exactly the way it is. All of creation, every star, every atom, every molecule, every planet, and every universe is waiting to see what God's going to do in us.
And if the prophets of political correctness consider that species-ist, let them rant. “Because that's what the Bible says. And the entire universe is waiting to see what God is going to do in us and is longing to see, according to verse 19: “…is waiting eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.” Very quickly look at verses 20 and following: “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” That's where we're going to have to stop, but when we are together again next Sunday morning, we'll pick back up with verse 20 and we'll see this cosmic redemption that is here held out, even with the universe, waiting to see the revealing of the sons of God.
And then we’ll find ourselves very quickly being reminded of what it is to be adopted as sons and to be given the promise of the redemption of our body. And then Paul's going to tell us that nothing can then separate us from the love of God. My guess is that the verses that follow here very quickly are some of the most precious verses in the Bible to you. And it will be fun to go through them and look at every single word. It's great to be back with you. May God bless you. It's an honor to study the Bible together with you, and we look forward to being together next Sunday. “Our Father, we come before you thankful that you've given us this opportunity. Father, may this be an investment in our hearts and minds and souls that your Holy Spirit would apply to our lives, that we will bear much fruit in your name and to your glory. In Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.”