Romans 8:23-25, “23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Since creation itself longs for the revealing of the glory of the children of God, the resurrection and revelation of all those who truly belong to Christ (Rom. 8:21), how much more do we who belong to Christ long for the final perfecting of our bodies as well as the revelation of who we are in the Savior? This assumption underlies today’s passage, which reminds us that not only is creation waiting for us to be revealed, but we also—and even more so—are waiting for that day when redemption will be consummated.
Paul says we “groan inwardly” while we wait for the final day (v. 23). Here the Apostle refers to the inward sighs and longings as we continue to feel the frustration of living as justified persons in a world where the effects of the fall are not yet eliminated. It is not that our frustration is indicative of doubt. The spirits of the children of God do not say—at least not perpetually and without resolution—“I am frustrated because I do not know whether God is ever going to finish what He started in me.” Instead, our inward groanings are akin to what David says in Psalm 13: “How long, O LORD” (v. 1a). David is confident that his prayer will be heard and that he is secure in God’s hand (vv. 5-6). Still, he wants to know how long it will be before he will receive the answer to his plea. David wants to know how much longer before God shows Himself in the king’s experience and vanquishes fully and finally all of David’s foes (vv. 1-4). We, too, want to know how long it will be before our foes—the world, the flesh, and the devil—will be put down finally, never to rise again. The longing and internal frustrations we feel are born of our confidence that the Lord will glorify all whom He has justified (Rom. 8:29-30). It is knowing that this is sure to happen that makes us long for it to come, that makes us cry out, “How much longer must I deal with my fallenness and the fallenness of the world?” This experience is similar to what Paul describes in Romans 7. We—because of our regeneration—desire to do what is right, and yet we do not always do it. Thus, we want to enter that state in which it will be impossible for us to do other than our deepest heart desire in Christ, namely, to please God.
The Apostle describes that which we long for as our hope (8:24-25). Hope in Scripture is not something that is uncertain; rather, hope refers to that which is certain but not yet seen or experienced in its fullness. Glorification remains our hope because we do not yet see it, but knowing that it is certain helps us to wait for its revelation patiently.
Christians have a deep, persistent longing to be completely free from our fallen condition. Sometimes we do not feel very patient in waiting for freedom from the presence of sin, but the surety of its coming should cause us to experience more and more patience as we await the full and final outworking of God’s purposes. Since we know that we will be glorified, we can endure all of our shortcomings in the present, repenting over them as we look forward to what is to come.