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Online Text Sermon - The Bitter before the Sweet, Romans ch.8 v.18

PreacherRev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness
Sermon TitleThe Bitter before the Sweet
TextRomans ch.8 v.18
Sermon ID4

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Now this passage of scripture refers to the fact that the people of God in this present life must go through many trials and many sorrows. It does seem a strange thing that very often the people of God have more tears and afflictions than the people of the world. After all the Bible makes it clear that there are two sorts of men: there are those who are godly and there are those who are godless. And the godly are they who have grace in their hearts; who are united to the Lord Jesus Christ by faith; who are looking forward to heaven. They have the Spirit of God and they are now the sons of God. Whereas on the other hand godless men and women are those who are sensual and who live for this present world. Their minds and hearts are at enmity with God and therefore it seems a strange confusion that the people of God have to suffer very often more than the wicked in this life. By and large the wicked are at ease; by and large the wicked have the pleasures that they seek laid in their hands: whereas the people of God often have tears of sorrow run out of them.

This is referred to in verse 18 where Paul says that we have "the sufferings of this present time" (verse 18) and he goes on to explain that for the Lord's people we must "reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (verse 18) as the people of God. All kinds of tribulation and persecution are the portion of God's children here in this life. We see that, for instance, towards the end of the very chapter where we are told at one point: "For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Romans 8,36). And yet says Paul, in spite of all of that "we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8,37). And that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8,39).

Now that is the background to what we're being told in this remarkable section which begins at verse 19, which speaks about "the earnest expectation of the creature waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God" (verse 19). I would like to look at this section because it is in itself a very remarkable revelation of the purpose of God, not only with regard to Christians, but it is a revelation with regard to the very world and universe in which we live. It talks not only about the fact that Christians one day are going to enjoy the fruits of their hope in a better world; but that the very world itself in which now we live is going to be transformed and made a world fit for God's children to live in. And the apostle at verse 19 puts this in a most interesting way: he says that "the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God" (verse 19).

We have to understand what is meant first of all by this word, creature. What is the creature of which he says, that the creature is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God? Well, we have to work it out from what Paul tells us in the ensuing verses and it is very clear it cannot refer to godless men and women; because it is not true of godless men and women that they are looking forward to the manifestation of the sons of God. So we must rule out godless people. Furthermore we must rule out Satan and the demons, because Satan and the demons will not enjoy the inheritance of glory which is referred to here. They are not going to be delivered from the wrath under which now they live. They are in a sinful state and the devil and his angels will continue in that sinful state forever. They are not going to share in the redemption of Christ. We must also leave out of the reckoning the very angels because it is not true of the angels that the creation in which now we live has been subject unto vanity. The angels have not been made part of the curse. The angels have not been made partakers of the miseries that Christians experience now in this life. So he cannot be speaking about the angels. Nor in these verses is he speaking about Christians; I make that very clear because in verse 19 he says "the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God" (verse 19), "Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (verse 21). So it's evident that the 'creature' whatever it is, is distinguished from the sons of God.

There is only one thing that is left, that by this term 'creature' the apostle Paul is referring to the non rational creation, the material creation. He is speaking about the fabric of the very universe in which we live. He means the sun and the moon and the stars and the earth upon which now we live. And he is referring to this part of God's creation in this interesting way. He says that the creature or creation is earnestly expecting something to happen. You could say the creation in which the Christian is living is looking down upon us from above, the sun and moon and stars are craning their necks, waiting for the day when the sons of God will be manifested in all their glory. You could use this illustration if you like of a sporting event in which a crowd is gathered to watch the players on the field and imagine a young child so small that he cannot see, so he climbs up onto the seat in front and he hoists himself up, craning his neck to see what is happening below. That is the meaning of this Greek word, in the original New Testament; someone who is craning his neck to see what is of intense importance and of interest.

Now what is it then that the creation is waiting to see? And the answer is: it is waiting to see "the manifestation of the sons of God" (verse 19). Now we know in the Word of God and from our reading of the writings of Thomas Boston and other great men, that mankind in the Word of God can be under one of four different conditions. There is first of all, the state of innocence: this was the condition in which Adam was created in the beginning. He was made sinless and innocent. He was created without flaw, without fault, without blemish, but he fell secondly into a state of sin. And that is the second condition into which mankind may be - a state of sin. When we come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ we are brought out of a state of sin and misery into a condition of grace and that is the third condition in which mankind may be - a state of grace. But there is still a forth condition into which mankind will enter when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ: and that is referred to in the Bible as a state of glory. So the four conditions of mankind are: innocence, sin, grace and glory, and there is progress from one to the other. Adam began in a state of innocence, fell into the state of sin, believers are brought into a state of grace and in the end of history we shall be brought into a state of glory.

Now that is what is referred to in verse 19, when the writer says that: "the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God" (verse 19). The whole creation round about us, the sun, the moon, the stars, all creation is waiting for the day when the children of God, when believers, of all nations are brought out of a state of grace and into a state of glory. When the end of history comes and the people of God are made as they will be eternally in the full image of the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. And the universe, in which we live, by a figure of speech, is said to be waiting for that day to come. Now I know that that is a deep mystery and that we can't explain it, but we take it as being something which is true because the Word of God has revealed it to us. The creature is waiting; the world is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Now I know Christian, that many a time you feel lonely in this world, do you not? All Christians know what it is to be on their own and to feel unloved, uncared for, unwanted, you feel that you have no friends. But the Word of God reinforces that that is far from being the truth. Not only are there an innumerable company of angels in heaven above, who are looking down upon the people of God as it were, and interested in our spiritual progress; not only are there innumerable angels above, as well as saints, who are concerned in the progress of the people of God and in their salvation, but the very universe itself in which now we are living is concerned for the day to come when the children of God shall be manifested and revealed in their glorified state. So the apostle explains what he means at verse 20: he begins (verse 20) again with a "for" and indeed if you look down the verses 19 and following you see that they all tend to begin in the same way "for ... the earnest expectation" (verse 19), "for ... the creature" (verse 20), "Because" (verse 21), "For" (verse 22), and that shows that he's explaining his meaning. The word 'for' is an explanation and he's understanding the fact that these things are very mysterious and the people of God find it very hard to know what he's talking about. So he's explaining and amplifying and illustrating and opening out his meaning.

And he goes on at verse 19 and he says that "the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope" (Romans 8,19-20). He's explaining that the universe in which we now live is subjected to vanity and that is the same as saying that the curse of God has entered into all parts of the universe. There is nowhere in the universe that does not have something of the curse of God upon it. There's a curse upon the sea, and a curse upon the land, there's a curse upon what we eat and a curse upon every aspect of our lives. And that is because sin has entered this world. There are even spots on the sun so we are told. There is a great hole in the ozone layer we are told. We're being informed about acid rain which does us harm, global warming which threatens all sorts of dangers upon us. We're informed about El Nino which affects the weather.

My friends, the curse of God has entered into everything because of the sin of man. The universe was made to be a place where man would live to glorify God, but man disobeyed God from the beginning and so the Lord has subjected everything to vanity. The book of Ecclesiastes goes into this subject with great amplification. "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity and vexation of spirit" (Ecclesiastes 12,8).

But now then, we are told here at verse 20 "the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly" (verse 20), not willingly. Now that's an interesting statement. It means that the world in which we live did not have any pleasure in becoming cursed for the sin of man. God did this in spite of the fact that creation did not want it, as it were. The ice caps which are formed at the North Pole and at the South Pole are absolutely uninhabitable by man. The deserts today, the Sahara desert, where you cannot live has no pleasure in being such a hostile place to man. The equator which is so humid and uninhabitable, except in special conditions, is something which God has sent upon the world. But they have no pleasure in being a place of judgement and a place of curse for man. It is as though the whole universe has gone wrong - like a huge machine that needs oiling. Everything seems to be out of joint. Nothing is perfect anymore. But God has done this as a judgement upon the sin of man and in spite of the reluctance, says Paul, of the world in which we live. It is not willing, the universe is not willing to be a curse to us. Volcanoes do not gladly pour out their lava onto the world; that's what he's talking about. Earthquakes do not willingly happen to destroy the lives of men. Tidal waves do not willingly occur to deluge men. The seas and the oceans are not willing of themselves to be at rage to Adam's children. God has done it because of our sin and they are sad, as it were, at the condition in which they are and we are.

But you will notice that this verse 20 ends with the word "hope" (verse 20). The universe itself in which we live has hope. This hope is that the very world itself in the end of history is going to be changed. It is going to be regenerated. It is going to be given a new birth. The word regeneration means new birth. Now the Christian receives his new birth at the beginning of his spiritual experience. The new birth, or the regeneration of the soul is what makes us a Christian. Without the new birth we cannot see the kingdom of God, we cannot enter the kingdom of God. Until we are born again we are not Christians. But the universe also, says Paul, is going to receive its regeneration. It's going to be restored to its primitive glory and its original beauty. More than that, it is going to be, if you like, brought into a condition that it never was in before. The universe has been subjected in hope. And the Word of God makes it clear there is going to be in the end a new universe and a better universe than ever there was before. Now my friends the Bible tells us these things in order to prepare us for the day when God will bring this change upon the sun, the moon and stars. Last Sabbath evening we talked a little about the subject, we spoke about the fact that when Jesus comes back he says it will be like lightening, from one end of heaven to the other. And His appearance will be with the sound of the trumpet and with great noise and with fervent heat and the elements will melt and there will be an end of the present world as we know it.

But God, according to His promise, says in the Bible, He will bring in "new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness" (2 Peter 3,13). Well, it is for this reason says Paul that the present universe is groaning. At verse 21 he makes it clear "the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (verse 21). In this present age nothing is perfect. In this present age sadness and sorrow are everywhere. It is a world in which everything is out of joint. Look at verse 22 "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (verse 22).

Somebody's put it beautifully like this, that if you and I had ears to hear it we would hear the music of the universe as a sad symphony of sighs. Everything in this world is sighing. Men who spend their time in laughter and in pleasure are fools. Because that is contrary to the nature of the present world in which we live. We live in a world of death, of sickness, of bereavement, of tragedy, of sorrow, the hearts of men are bleeding everywhere throughout the world. Through war and loss and breakdown of relationships; tragedy is written right across our world. And the universe in which we live is aware of this. Verse 22 "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (verse 22). Wise people, therefore, when they come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, they are aware of the fact that this world is not a place of endless pleasure, it is a place which is very sad, we live in a sad life and in a sad world, where God is neglected and the main things are overlooked.

Ah yes, but, there is more to be said; much more to be said. And this is what the apostle comes to speak about just here. He says the present universe groans and travails in pain. And I have to say to you my friends, that there are two ways in which a man might groan. A person might groan because they are dying. They might groan because they are terminally ill, there are many in hospital, who are groaning because they are coming to the end of life and they're facing eternity. Many of them, of course, are sadly unprepared.

But there's another sense in which a woman might groan, she might groan because she is in childbirth and is labouring to bring forth her child. And this indeed is the figure of speech which is found in this verse. The creation groans and travails. And this word 'travail' refers to someone who is in the labour ward of a hospital. She travails, she is in pain, not because she is dying, but because she about to give birth to a child. And this is the figure of speech which is used about creation - the groaning world in which we live is not groaning because it is about to die, but is groaning rather because it is about to give birth to a new creation and to another world, far better than the present one.

The present universe is consigned to vanity. It is under judgement; the curse is to be seen in every corner. But the present universe that groans and sighs is about to give birth to a new world, a grand new world you could say. Or to put it more accurately: God is going to purify the present universe and make it a fit habitation for the children of God. Now the Bible tells us that the new heavens and new earth are going to appear and that the way to explain that is this: that the new heavens and the new earth are going to be one single place. The present world in which we live is like a three storey house. There is heaven above, there is hell at the bottom and in the middle the world in which we live. It is like a three storey house: heaven, and earth, and hell. And we live in the earth until we die, and then when we die we either go up or sadly we go down. And that's why the Gospel is given to us to prepare us for death and eternity. And it tells us we need Christ as our Saviour so that when we die we shall not go down to hell, but up to heaven. Now that will continue to be the state of the universe until the end of time. And in the end of time God will take the earth and the heavens and He will beautify and glorify them and make them one place. New heavens and a new earth surely are going to be one place, they're not going to be two anymore, but one. And the only other place that will exist is hell. Hell will be eternal for the wicked, and there they will be sighing and groan for ever and ever and the wicked will suffer pain in hell for ever and ever; all those that have no Saviour; all those who have no love for Christ will be eternally and tragically lost. But the earth and the heaven will become one place. One renewed universe: a fixed habitation for the people of God. They will have no need of the sun by day or the moon by night. God Himself will give them the light they need. Christ Himself will be the lamp that they need and they will walk in the light of the Lord their God for ever and ever. And the very universe itself, this is the point he is making, is going to become renewed.

The creation that now is, the whole creation groans and travails in pain - it is about to give birth to a new heavens and to a new earth. And the sad music of this present age will pass away like a man that puts a gramophone record onto his turntable, the music is sad, but then when it's finished he puts another gramophone record on and this time the music is joyful and glad. It is a new song; so it will be with the people of God. In this present life we are sad because of sin and because of evil and because God is dishonoured and His cause is not loved. But my friends, when Christ returns the universe is going to be beautified and all the sad music will stop. There will be no more sighing, no more sadness at all. A new gramophone record, as it were, will be put on the machine, and there will be nothing but gladness and happiness for ever; the new song of Moses and of the Lamb; the song of the redeemed who come to faith and to glory, those who are the people of God.

Now the universe in which we live knows that this is so. The whole creation is groaning and travailing in pain together until now. And he goes on to say that this is also true, not only of creation but of the people of God now. He puts it like this at verse 23 "not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (verse 23). 'We ourselves' here, refers to Christians. It refers to those who are already in a state of grace. We groan within ourselves.

Now friends, this is true, the Christian if he knows his own heart groans because of his own imperfections. How far short we come of what we ought to be. How many times we grieve our own consciences and sin against the God whom we love. How many times we wound our own consciences and grieve the Holy Spirit, and yet, we have this certainty that we are to be saved. We are to be brought in a state in which we shall have the adoption, "the adoption" you see it in (verse 23) waiting for the adoption to wit, the redemption of our body. Now this word adoption is used in more senses than one in the Word of God. Usually the word adoption means when you are brought out of a state of sin into a state of grace; God adopts us and makes us His children. We become legally adopted and spiritually adopted into the family of God. As many as receive Christ have the right to become the sons of God. We become His by adoption and we enter into the family of God. But the meaning here in verse 23 is more than that: it means that our very bodies will be taken out of the grave and brought into heaven. Our very bodies, these bodies in which we have lived on earth, are going to enjoy a condition in which they will shine beautifully and gloriously like the very body of Christ when He ascended up on high. Our bodies are to be redeemed from sickness and death and corruption and all the things that give them trouble and difficulty here. Our bodies are to come forth from the grave when the trumpet sounds and they are to appear as they will always finally be in that brightness and beauty which is the very image of God. Filled with the Holy Spirit; filled with holiness; filled with love; filled with comfort. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away and there shall be no more pain.

Now the universe knows all these things and the universe is waiting for it to happen. And my friends, John Calvin was quite right to tell us to be patient as Christians. You know we are so impatient; how long have you been a Christian? Well you say five years, and you would like to get out of this world, you say, because it is such an evil place. And my friend, you've only been groaning for five years. Or maybe an older Christian says, I'm an old saint, I've been converted for 50 years, I've been groaning in this world for 50 years waiting for the Lord to take me home. Well dear Christian, let me remind you that the universe in which we live has been looking down from heaven upon us all and upon all the people of God and it has been groaning not for five years or fifty, but thousands and thousands of years. The world has been groaning, longing for the day to come when the people of God will appear in all their beauty and resurrection splendour. And is this not then an argument, Christians, why you and I should be patient with the adversities and trials of this present time. Can you and I be impatient after five or fifteen years, or twenty, when the universe above us has been waiting patiently for the day to come when our blessed Saviour shall appear upon the clouds of heaven? And all the eyes of men shall see Him and when He shall shout and all the dead shall come forth from their graves out of every nation and kindred and tribe; when we shall all speak the same language and all love the Lord with all our heart and soul and mind and strength; at Christ's glorious return.

Now my friends, why is the apostle telling us these things? This is not just simply an academic exercise to inform us about something in the future. It is that; it's a wonderful revelation about future events which you won't get out of the newspaper and you won't get it from the television, but you'll get it from the Word of God and he's telling us this for very practical reasons. He's saying to us: go on as Christians, don't be discouraged by the trials or the lonelinesses and tribulations and disappointments for this present time; don't let them get you down, because a good day is coming and a happy time is coming.

Let me put it to you like this, as I close today, you can imagine a young woman who is a very poor servant in a rich family. And nobody treats her very well. And everybody despises her and gives her too much to do. And very often she's lonely in her own little room. The family have no love for her, they shut her out. They speak unkindly to her and unkindly about her and there she is this little room in this great house while all the others are enjoying happiness and fun and pleasure. But one thing keeps her from despair and that is she knows that there is a man who is very rich who loves her and promised to marry her and has said to her that in a few months time he will take her out of that place and bring her to his own palace and she'll be far richer and better off than they in the home where she is, have ever been. So she doesn't worry about the trials of this present time, she looks beyond this present time and to the coming time. She often thinks about the man that loves her and one day will come and marry her and take her away from all her present troubles.

So it is my beloved friends with the Christian, he knows that our Saviour is soon going to come back. It doesn't matter what sorrows you have today. When Jesus returns there will be a new heavens for you. That will be your home. You will inherit the earth, you will inherit heaven; you will inherit all that God has promised to His people. There is not a promise in God's Word that He will not make good to you there. He will do you more good than you can even ask or think. He will press down all the blessings of glory upon you. And you will be richer than the richest kings and queens have ever been in this present world.

So cheer up my Christian friend and be of good cheer and be thankful that this is the hope that you have been given: we are saved by hope. We don't see it yet, we may not see it tomorrow, but we will certainly see it in God's time. The sun knows it and is waiting, the moon knows it and is waiting, and the earth upon which we tread is waiting because the earth also and the heavens are going to be transformed in the same day that you and I are transformed into that glorious condition of being adopted as the sons of God in our very bodies into the glory to come.

But as I close today I have one word further to say: and that is to those of you who are not Christians, who do not believe in Christ, who have never been born again. My friends, you see sadly you're going to be left out. You're not going to be a part of that glory. You're going to be cast into that terrible place beneath where there is sighing and sorrow forever more. And that's why God tells you these things now: that you may repent and seek the Lord and believe in the Christ who shed His blood for sinners upon the cross. And God says, all are welcome to come and to believe in my dear Son: Jesus Christ. All who believe in Christ as your hope of future glory, - if you have Him, you too will be an heir and a fellow heir with Christ of that glorious hope which is certain to come. May God bless to us His Word.

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