READ | SERMON NOTES
Summary l A life in the Spirit entails suffering. (Rom 8:17)Is the suffering that we go through worth it? Three spiritual realities:
Present Suffering (v 18-27)
The suffering in the current age is not worth comparing to the eternal glory of God in the age to come. The magnificent future glory will surpass the pain of current sufferings. Paul is not trivializing human suffering today. He is saying it is temporary, while everlasting life and its glory are eternal. (2 Cor 4:18)
Suffering of frustration (v20). There is emptiness, futility and a lack of purpose. Without God, we have no hope and true purpose. Creation is subjected to futility because of sin; but God will make all things right when Christ returns.
Suffering of bondage (v21). Creation is subject to bondage, decay, disease and death. We cannot break free from it.
Suffering of birth pangs (v22). There is the labour pain of wars, famines, earthquakes, false teachings and prophecies. (Matt 24: 8) We are groaning inwardly and longing for God’s new world to be born.
Future Glory (v 18-27)
Paul speaks of future glory in the age to come:
Glory of freedom (v21). We are free from bondage to decay and death. Currently, our physical body decays as we age and our sinful flesh causes spiritual death. In the future glory, our sinful flesh is destroyed, and our physical body is transformed into a new glorious body that Christ gives to us.
Glory of redemption (v23). All creation will be redeemed and suffused with the glory of God. Christ spoke of a time when all things will be renewed – a new heaven and earth where the wolf and lamb coexist peacefully, where creatures will neither harm nor destroy. (Isaiah 11:6) The Spirit helps us to wait and gives us a foretaste of that future glory.
Unwavering Hope (v 28-39)
God’s good and faithful purposes (v 28 – 30)
In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, and are called according to his purpose. What does it mean for God to foreknow and predestine? Has God already decided who to save? Do we have no say; or does God work with our choice? Is that how He knows and chooses? God has sovereign choice, yet the Word of God also tells us that God draws us to Him (John 6:44) and gives us grace to make a choice to follow him. We need God’s grace because we cannot choose God on our own ability because of our sinfulness. God therefore knows beforehand whether we will make the grace-empowered choice to follow and love Him.
Since God works for the good of those who love Him, “those whom God foreknew would love Him, he destined in advance to be conformed to the image of His son. This is not about someone being destined to become a Christian but rather it is about the destiny of those who love God..” (Ben Witherington III).
God’s great and unchanging love (v 31 – 39)
To prove God’s unchanging love, Paul asked four questions:-
- Who can be against us if God is for us? If God justifies and glorifies us, all the powers of hell and darkness cannot prevail against us.
- Who can be more generous? God gave up His own son for us, and will graciously give us all things.
- Who can condemn us? No one can condemn us because God the judge has already declared us righteous.
- Who can separate us from His love? Not any hardship and persecution, not the crisis of death or the calamities of life, not the spiritual realm of angels or demons, not the present or the future; for we are more than conquerors through Christ. Paul asserts with conviction that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God! (v 35-39)
Be eager yet patient in hope
We are to be eager for our final redemption (v23), yet also patient. A balance is needed. We are neither to lose our expectation and become spiritually indifferent, nor to be so eager that we lose patience and start speculating. Jesus says no one will know with certainty when He will return. This is to keep us humble. While waiting, we fulfil the great commission and watch for His return in a posture of humble surrender.
Be persistent in groaning prayer
There are trying times when we run out of words to pray and can only groan. The Spirit groans with us and prays for us when we do not know how to pray. The Spirit identifies with our pain and perfectly intercedes for us in accordance with the will of God — perfecting our prayers and groans. (v 26-27)
Be rested in His faithful love
God’s love is no ordinary love. It is unfailing and committed to bring us home to eternal glory. God’s promise of eternal glory awaits. Your heart can gratefully receive this amazing love or you can internally reject God’s love. The prayer today is that you will receive God’s love and be rested in it. For whatever the circumstances, the truth is that nothing can separate you from God’s love.
(Sermon notes by Denis Koh)
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
- What are the types of present suffering and future glory that Paul describes in verses 18 – 27? How does the hope of future glory encourage you to persevere in the midst of trials and suffering?
- How does the Spirit groaning with us (verse 26) change the way you view prayer? What would you groan for? What hopes do you have where words cannot express and you find yourself groaning?
- What do verses 28 to 30 show about the good and faithful purposes of God? How does that encourage you?
- Paul asks a series of questions from verses 31-39. Share the one that speaks to you the most and why?
- From verses 37 to 39, how is Paul convinced that nothing can separate him from God’s love? Is that your conviction as well? Why?
- Share an experience when you encountered God’s love when you felt or knew you didn’t deserve it. Give thanks to Him and resolve to stay rested in His love.