Adoption: Sons Displayed in Glory

Sermon by Derek Thomas on November 25, 2003

Romans 8:18-25

Sons Displayed In Glory

Turn with me now, if you would, to Romans chapter 8, Romans
chapter 8. We’ve been ranging over a number of texts, dealing as we have been
with the series theme of adoption. This glorious theme, that God in His
marvelous grace has brought us into a living relationship with Himself, adopted
us into His household and family that we should be called, as John says in 1
John 3 in verse 1, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,
that we should be called the children of God.” And John is implying a
word there in 1 John 3 that implies that this love comes from another world; it
is from outside of this world. How great is the love of God to us. We’ve
looked at Romans 8 a number of times and I want us this evening to go back
tonight to a glorious passage in Romans 8, one that we haven’t touched on thus
far, and I think this will form a wonderful conclusion to our consideration of
this grand and important doctrine in the New Testament. I’m going to pick it up
at verse 18, Romans 8 at verse 18, and I’m going to read through to the end of
verse 25. But before we do so, let’s pray for God’s blessing upon the reading
of Scripture. Let’s pray.

Father, we are thankful for
many things, but we are thankful especially just now for the Bible, for Your
inerrant word that holy men of old wrote as they were carried along by the Holy
Spirit. We thank You for this chapter, the eighth chapter of Romans, and ask
that by Your Spirit You would open it up to us and hide it within our hearts,
for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Verses 18 through 25 of Romans 8:

“For I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory
that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits
eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to
futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the
creation itself also will 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. And not
only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we
ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen
is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we
do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

Amen. May God bless to us the reading of His holy and
inerrant word.

I. The road to glory is via the
pathway of suffering.
Now I want us to get
into this passage as quickly as possible this evening. It’s one of these
gloriously high, soaring passages that take our breath away, because Paul is
expressing something here which quite honestly is inexpressible. And he’s
calling upon us to view something that we have never seen the like of. And Paul
is calling upon us in this eighth chapter of Romans, and particularly here, to
see something of the immensity that lies before us in terms of a glory that He
has prepared for all of the children of God.

Now he says three things and the
relationship between them is like this: First of all, he makes a general
statement, a thesis if you like; and then in the second place, he illustrates
it; and then in the third place, he draws in inference from it. He makes a
statement; he illustrates it; and then he draws an inference from it. That’s
the design of the passage. The statement that Paul makes–and what a glorious
statement it is! What an amazing statement it is! That the road to glory is
via the pathway of suffering: that’s the statement. The road to glory is via
the pathway of suffering
. Those who are destined for glory will suffer in
this world. He has already alluded to it in verse 17. He says that we are
children; we are heirs; we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. He’s
elaborated something of the doctrine of adoption. He’s spoken of the spirit of
adoption that indwells us provided, he goes on to say, we suffer with Him in
order that we may be glorified with Him. And Paul is underlining for us here
that in the exposition of this grand and glorious truth of adoption, that the
Holy Spirit–as he calls Him here in the eighth chapter of Romans, the ‘spirit of
adoption’–that adoption is one of the principle works that the Holy Spirit
engages in, and that He indwells our heart in such a way that He makes us
conscious that we have a relationship with God as our Father and with Jesus as
our Elder Brother. We are joint heirs with Christ and with the Spirit as the
spirit of adoption, so that adoption brings us into a relationship with the
Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And the Spirit witnesses with our
spirits that we are the children of God, enabling us to cry, “Abba, Father.”

But there is this problem. And glorious as all of
that is, and wonderful as all of that is, and encouraging as all of that is,
Paul is realistic at this point because he says, provided that we suffer with
Him, that our union with Christ guarantees that we will be called upon in some
form or another to pass through a valley of suffering. It’s one of those, I
think, that Paul expresses with greater and greater force, I think, in the
course of his ministry and in the course of his writing of the New Testament:
that the relationship between glorification and suffering is not nearly
chronological. That is to say that glorification follows suffering.

But for the Apostle Paul, and
it’s a key thought–for the Apostle Paul the relationship between
glorification and suffering is causal
, that you cannot get to glory
except through the pathway of suffering
. What Bunyan calls, ‘Hill
Difficulty’ and the ‘Slough of Despond’…and that there are these issues and
things in this life that hinder our progress and tempt us to veer away. ‘And
beyond them,’ Paul is saying, ‘lies, and through them lies the glory that awaits
the children of God.’ And it’s to that glory that Paul wants us to look: that
one of the marvelous consequences of being the children of God is that we are
destined for glory. And it’s as though Paul in Romans 8 is trying to peer at
the magnificence of the glory that awaits the children of God, but he can’t see
it for a minute because there’s smoke in the air. There’s a smell of battle and
the noise of battle, and the smoke, for a minute, isn’t clearing. It’s Helm’s
Deep and Pellenor Fields all over again.

And that’s the experience of some
of you tonight: that you know you’re the children of God; you know you’re
adopted into the household and family of God; and do you know that you’re
destined for glory? But at this point in time, all you can see is the battle.
All you can be conscious of is the warfare and the difficulty of it and the
setbacks and the toil and the turmoil. And perhaps some of you are just like
Naomi, “Don’t call me Naomi,” she said. “Call me Mara,” which means bitter,
“for the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” And that’s where some of
you are tonight: in the midst of a battle, in the midst of a war, in the midst
of difficulty, in the midst of pain, in the midst of sorrow and suffering–and
Paul has something to say to you, my friend. That, you see, that it’s through
that pain, and it’s through that trial that glory lies beyond. The world may
hate you tonight. And the closer you are to Jesus and the more resolute you are
in your discipleship, the more the world will hate you. And beware when
everybody speaks well of you. But here it comes, and the clouds are lifting
now, and there’s a marvelous sight of the glory, of the splendor. And Paul
says that the sufferings of this world are not worthy to be compared with the
glory which shall be revealed in us

And Paul may be implying one of
two ideas here. He may be using a comparison of economics. He may be saying
that the value of one can’t be compared with the value of another, like a $10.00
dollar watch from Wal-Mart can’t be compared to a $5,000 Rolex. Give me the
$10.00 watch from Wal-Mart anytime. But actually I think the comparison isn’t
economic, but the comparison is in the issue of weight. It’s the language of
the scales and Paul is saying…he says elsewhere in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, “Our
light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding
weight of glory.” That if you have one of these old fashioned scales, the kind
where you have to lift weights and actually put them on the scales, that if you
put the suffering, if you put the trial on the scale on the one and then you put
the glory that awaits us on the other side, you’ll see it always going down
because there’s no comparison. Because the weight of glory exceeds whatever
the weight of the trial may be

And you notice how Paul puts it
in verse 18. He puts it this way, “For I consider that the sufferings of this
present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed
to us.” “I consider it.” And do you see what Paul is saying? And it’s so
important from a pastoral point of view; Paul is saying, ‘This isn’t just
something that just comes to you out of the blue, this thought. No, I’ve
considered it. I’ve thought about it. I’ve weighed it up in my mind. I’ve
reasoned about it. I’ve drawn the conclusion that if I truly am a child of God,
and I’m in union with Jesus Christ, and He will never let me go, and there’s
glory to come, and “eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have it entered
into the heart of man what God hath prepared for those that love Him”’… “I
consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory that shall be revealed in us.”

You see, Paul is doing more than
just saying, “You know, cheer up, why don’t you?” You know, that’s about the
worst thing that you can ever say to somebody who is discouraged. You know,
when you’re discouraged and somebody says, “Cheer up,” you know you want to pop
them in the nose because that’s the one thing that you can’t do. And it’s not
something within us that cheers us up; it’s something outside of us. It’s the
resolution of a covenant God that cheers us and encourages us and motivates us.
Isn’t that what motivated Abraham, that he persevered, “looking for a city which
hath foundations whose builder and maker is God”? Isn’t that what motivated
Moses when he esteemed it better to suffer with the people of God than to enjoy
the seasons and pleasures of sin for a season? Isn’t that what motivated Jesus
Himself “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising
the shame and (has) sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high”?

My friends, consider what’s
before you. You know, you may be in the battle of Helm’s Deep. You know, the
DVD has come out so it’s all in your mind again. And there you look up into the
hills, and there’s Gandalf on the white horse with his armies coming to rescue,
and Paul is saying something like that. ‘Look up! Look beyond the affliction
and the trial and the difficulty, because through this trial and through this
difficulty there is glory that lies beyond!’ That’s what Paul is saying, ‘Keep
your eye on the glory which is to come.’ You know, they say, where there’s
life, there’s hope. Actually where there’s hope, there’s life. If you’ve got
hope in your heart, if you’ve got that vision in your mind and your eye is
resolute on the Savior, then there’s life. So there’s the statement; there’s
the thesis of the Apostle Paul: that the road to glory is via the pathway of

II. Suffering illustrated
But, secondly, he illustrates it, and he illustrates it in two ways. He
illustrates it, first of all, from creation. He says in verse 19, “The creation
waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” “The
creation”…and this is Paul’s language: the creation stretches out its neck; it’s
standing on tip-toe; and it’s trying to see something. It’s trying to behold
something, and what it’s trying to behold is the manifestation, the revelation
of the sons of God.

Now, let’s go a little deeper into what Paul says
here because he expands this thought along three avenues, speaking of the past
and the present and the future. In reference to the past, he puts it like this
(verse 20): That “creation was subjected to futility” or to frustration.
“Creation was subjected to futility” or frustration. Paul isn’t speaking now
about the original creation. He’s not speaking about creation as we see it in
Genesis 1 or Genesis 2: “And God saw all that He had made and behold it was very
good.” No, this is creation after the fall. This is creation as sin entered
into the word. This is creation as the curse has come down upon it. This is
creation where you have to work in the sweat of your brow and where childbirth
involves pain and thorns infest the ground. Do you remember how Revelation ends
in chapter 22? “Behold, there is no more curse. The curse is taken away.” And
Paul is saying there is something about fallen creation. There’s something
about the world in which we live that is subject to futility. It’s the word
that the Greek translators of the Old Testament, not the Old Testament but the
Greek translation of the Old Testament, it’s the word they implied for that
famous word in Ecclesiastes that “everything under the sun is vanity,” futile,
purposeless. There’s something about living in this world that is always
frustrating. There’s always purposelessness about living in this world outside
of reference to God. It has no aim. It has no direction. It has no cohesion.
It has no integration. There’s a futility to it. There’s something always
holding creation back. It’s subject to futility and frustration.

Remember in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia
Chronicles, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? You remember
when Narnia, under the control of the wicked witch, do you remember one of the
consequences was that the land was always in perpetual winter? Spring never
came. Now you have to do as if an about shift, you know, cause the coming of
winter in Mississippi is a delightful thing. To wake up last night at three in
the morning and to be freezing was actually a pleasurable experience. But you
understand that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. That isn’t how the Garden of
Eden was. And there’s something, there’s something about Lewis’ portrait of it
always being winter, as though the creation was always sort of held back; but
when Aslan died and rose again, spring came and life came and blossoms came.

And then Paul goes on to say
something about the present and he speaks, uses the word groaning.
Actually he uses it three times. He says, “The creation groans” (verse 22).
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in pains of
childbirth.” “The creation groans.” And he goes to say that we groan, and he
goes on to say that the Holy Spirit groans with words that are inexpressible,
too deep for words, within us. The creation is groaning. It’s a word
associated with the pangs of childbirth and labor. The world is trying to give
birth and it’s a painful process. And then with reference to the future, he
goes on to say that the creation itself (verse 21) will be set free from it’s
bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
It’s subject to futility, it’s trying to give birth, but in the future it will
be released; it will be set free from its bondage and captivity. Frustration
and groaning and bondage and captivity, that’s the world in which we live: a
world of pollution, a world of green-house gases, a world of solar flares and
radiation and poison rivers, and an animal kingdom that is suffering and going
into extinction. ‘But one day, one day,’ Paul says, ‘it’s all going to be
different.’ One day there is going to be…and he uses this extraordinary word, a
palingenesis, regeneration, a coming into life again. That is
extraordinarily like what John says happens to us when we come to faith in Jesus
Christ, that we are born again of the spirit of God. Paul now seems to be
addressing that concept to the idea of creation. There is coming a day when the
creation, as it were, will give birth, when the creation will be restored, when
the new heavens and the new earth will dawn. “And the lion will lie down with
the lamb, and a little child will lead them,” as the prophet says. And I know
it’s a picture. I know it’s a picture, and I don’t want to stretch it too far.
But what a beautiful picture that is of the world restored as it was meant to
be, of Eden flourishing again throughout the four corners of the globe, of a new
heavens and a new earth in which there is no sin and there is no curse and there
is no night! Well, that’s the first example: creation.

But the second example is the
sons of God themselves. That the principle of suffering leading to glory is
reflected in the creation itself, but it’s also reflected in the children of
God. “But we ourselves (verse 23) who have the first fruits of the Spirit,
groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our
bodies.” And Paul has just squashed together a whole number of issues there.
He says, we are the first fruits; we “have the first fruits of the Spirit.” And
probably what Paul means is that the Spirit Himself is the first fruits. He’s
the guarantee of that which is to come. He is, as it were, the down payment of
that which is to come. Like on the day of Pentecost, the Feast of Pentecost
celebrating harvest time, that the first pickings of the tree were, as it were,
the statement that there’s a whole glorious harvest coming. And the Spirit
within us is the guarantee of glory to come of union with Christ, of a life
lived in the presence of God in the new heavens and in the new earth.

III. What we ultimately live for

What Paul now remarkably says, and hear this,
because Paul has already said on a number of occasions in Romans 8 that we are
already the sons of God. We have already been adopted into the household and
family of God, and yet there’s something of a tension here, because although in
a sense we already are the sons of God, we are not, as it were, the sons of God
in all of its glory and in all of its fullness, because they yet await a
manifestation of the sons of God. Now do you see and do you remember how John
puts that? “Now are we the sons of God.” There it is. There’s the now:
“Now are we the sons of God.” That’s a truth. That’s a reality now. “But it
doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear, we
shall be like Him for we shall see Him even as He is.” And that’s what Paul is
saying here, that we already are the sons of God. We have the spirit of sonship
dwelling in our hearts. He is the first fruits, and yet we’re not what we shall
be. We’re not yet what we shall be. And there comes a yet more glorious day:
the manifestation of the sons of God. And its as though Paul, as it were, is
viewing the scene and the smoke of battle and the trial have long since drifted
away, and what he sees now is Jesus in all of His glory saying to His Father,
‘Behold My children. Behold My little ones. Behold the ones for whom I have
died and shed My blood.’ We are heirs and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ, and
there is coming a day, Paul is saying here, when the creation will be renewed,
when a new heaven and a new earth will dawn and there will be the manifestation,
the manifestation of the sons of God. “The redemption of our bodies,” Paul goes
on to say. We are saying goodbye to some of our dear, dear friends in the
church and yet another one tomorrow, a body lain in the ground. Yes, the soul
in the presence of Jesus in that what we sometimes euphemistically call “the
intermediate state.”

But Paul says, ‘You know,
glorious as that truth is, that “to be absent from the body is to be present
with the Lord”…glorious as that truth is, it’s like being unclothed.’ And what
we long for and the hope of the New Testament is not the soul going into the
presence of Jesus, the center of our self-determination and self-consciousness
in the presence of Jesus and the body in the ground. The hope of the New
Testament is that that body will rise from the dead, and if Jesus comes before
we die, the body raised into His presence, so that forever we shall be with the
Lord as His adopted sons, body and soul. That’s what we’re waiting for, in all
of its glory, in all of its magnificence. And do you see the inference that Paul
draws? Do you see what he says in verse 25? “If we hope for that for what we
do not see, we wait for it with patience,” or perseverance.

I was reading a story of someone
that I vaguely knew, a lady, a Christian lady called Mabel. And Mabel had been
sick for a quarter of a century. For 25 years she had been sick and almost the
whole of that time confined to her bed with disease throughout her body. And
towards the end of her existence she was asked a question, “What do you think
about?” “Jesus,” she said. “But what exactly?” “I think about how good He’s
been to me, all the days of my life. And how one day I will get out of this
bed, and I will walk to meet Him and fall down before Him and worship Him.”
That’s what she said. That’s what we were singing about in that wonderful
Charles Wesley hymn. “Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth
come down. / Fix in us Thy humble dwelling, all Thy faithful mercies crown. /
Jesus, Thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love Thou art. Visit us with
Thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.” And then that final verse, “Fix in
us Thy humble dwelling; finish then Thy new creation; pure and spotless let us
be. Let us see Thy great salvation, perfectly restored in Thee; / changed from
glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place, / till we cast our crowns
before Thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.” That’s what the doctrine of
adoption means. It’s a doctrine that assures that one day we shall be with Him
in glory, casting our crowns before Him. Let’s pray together.

Our Father in Heaven, in this week especially of
thanksgiving, our hearts are full as we consider what You’ve done for us and
what You are doing for us and what You yet will do for us. We thank You that we
are Your children, that we bear the name ‘Christians’, that now are we the sons
of God and it doth not yet appear what we shall be. We thank you that “eye hath
not seen nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man what God
hath prepared for those that love Him.” And we pray that You’d fill us with a
glimpse of that glory which is to come, and keep us patient and in the midst of
our trials to run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking unto
Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. And hear us for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

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