Romans 8:19-22, “19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
Christianity has at times been called a pie-in-the-sky religion, one so focused on spiritual things and life in heaven after death that it is unconcerned with the here and now. To be sure, some believers have given others reason to hold this view. Some people talk about salvation as if it is exclusively spiritual, implying that God is concerned only with the souls of people and that this world is a throwaway in His eternal purposes.
Today’s passage should disabuse us of´those notions. As the Apostle Paul indicates, the physical creation is not incidental to the Lord’s plans. Instead, the created order will be redeemed as well. In fact, creation is eagerly awaiting “the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Even now, those who have been justified by faith alone in Christ alone have been adopted as the children of God, and we thereby have all the privileges that His sons and daughters are due in Christ because we have been graciously brought into His family (vv. 15-17; see 5:1-11). However, while the status and benefits merited by Jesus are fully ours even now, we do not yet experience them in their fullness. The remnants of sin still plague us, and our suffering continues. This will not last forever; at the consummation, our glory as God’s children will be revealed, and though we do not yet fully know what that will be like, we know that it will be marvelous beyond all description (1 John 3:1-3).
Creation awaits the day of resurrection when we come into full possession of all that we have in Christ because at that point, the world will be set free as well (Rom. 8:20-22). Paul tells us that creation was “subjected to futility” and put in “bondage to corruption.” The Apostle refers here to the effects of the fall of mankind. As Genesis 3 indicates, Adam’s fall affected not only the human race but also the physical world as well (vv. 16-19). God cursed the earth, and the disruption of the natural world since the fall is the evidence of its being subjected to futility. John Calvin comments, “The condemnation of mankind is imprinted on the heavens, and on the earth, and on all creatures.”
Though creation was unwillingly cursed—it did not commit the willful act of rebellion that led to its damaged and fallen state—it received this curse “in hope” (Rom. 8:20). When the Lord cursed the world, He included the hope of its salvation—the Messiah’s crushing of the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15). In Christ, that has occurred, and the world is waiting for the fruit of this crushing to be fully evident in a renewed heaven and earth.
Sin has consequences not only for ourselves but also for the entire creation. Because of what we did in Adam, the world suffers. One day, the suffering will be over, and this is a day for which even the earth hopes. In the meantime, we can alleviate the suffering of the world and all that is in it through good stewardship of its resources. This is one of our callings as Christians, and we fulfill it out of love for the Creator.