( c ) The blessed condition and assured hope of such as are in Christ Jesus. The summary of the contents of this chapter, which follows the Exposition, may be referred to in the first place by the student, so as to assist comprehension of the line of thought.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. (So, as in the Revised Version, or upon us, as Tyndale and Cranmer, rather than in us , as in the Authorized Version. The expression is εἰς ἡμᾶς , and the idea is of Christ appearing in glory, and shedding his glory on us, cf. 1 John 3:2 .) For the earnest expectation of the creature (or, creation ) waiteth for the revelation of the sons of God . "Revelatur gloria: et tum revelantur etiam filii Dei" (Bengel). God's sons will be revealed as being such, and glorified (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:5 ; also 1 John 3:2 ). ἠ κτίσις , in this verse and afterwards, has been variously understood. The word properly means actus creationis, and is so used in Romans 1:20 ; but usually in the New Testament denotes what has been created, as, in English, creation. Sometimes, where the context limits its application, it denotes mankind, as Mark 16:15 and Colossians 1:23 ; or it may be used for an individual creature (cf. Romans 8:39 ; Hebrews 4:13 ). Where there is nothing to limit its meaning, it must be understood of the whole visible creation, at any rate in the world of man. Thus in Mark 10:6 ; Mark 13:19 ; 2 Peter 3:4 . And so here, except so far as the context limits it; for see especially πᾶση ἡ κτίσις in verse 22. It is, indeed, apparently so limited to the part of creation of which we have cognizance at present; for see οἴδαμεν in verse 22, which denotes a known fact. But is there any further limitation, as many commentators contend? Putting aside as untenable, in view of the whole context (see especially verse 23), the view of those who understand the new spiritual creation of the regenerate to be meant, we may remark as follows:
For what of all these present sufferings, these present drawbacks to the lull triumph of the πνεῦμα in you, these present evidences that the σῶμα νεκρὸν still clings to you? They are nothing to the destined glory; they are not worth consideration in comparison with it.
Suffering quenched in glory.
It is not easy to weigh the future against the present. To children, and to the unreflecting, the present seems so real, and the future so shadowy, that the least advantage or relief today seems immensely preferable to something in itself more desirable, but which is deferred to a distant date. As knowledge and thought advance, the power of realizing the future increases. Hence in worldly affairs the useful virtue of prudence emerges, and men deny themselves now in order to make provision for the coming years. The same principle is applicable in religion. Those who believe themselves destined to a future and immortal existence are capable of looking forward to the life to come, and of allowing that life to exercise upon their minds a mighty influence, so that their present attitude of spirit is largely governed and controlled by their expectations of the future. It is, indeed, far from being the highest of motives that influences men, if they do good to avoid future misery and secure future happiness. For religion consists in the love of truth and right for their own sake, as supremely desirable, in the love of God as supremely excellent. Yet, as the text shows, Christianity holds out the prospect of immortal happiness as fitted to cheer and encourage the pilgrims of the night amidst the difficulties and darkness of time.
I. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH IS NOT INTENDED TO DISPARAGE THE PRESENT SUFFERINGS OF CHRISTIANS . Paul does not mean to say the sufferings to be endured here are in themselves inconsiderable. For the fact is otherwise; every man, and much more every Christian, has much to bear. "They that will live godly must suffer persecution." In some cases, the amount of opposition and calumny and neglect involved in fidelity to the Saviour is far from trifling. But the apostle means to affirm that so vast is the recompense, so exceeding and eternal the weight of glory hereafter, that even the direst persecution, the fiercest conflict, the keenest self-denial, are all extinguished in the lustre, the blaze, of heavenly day.
II. THIS IS A CALCULATION BASED UPON THE REVELATIONS OF SCRIPTURE . Reason unaided could never have arrived at this result. For one of the members of the comparison is beyond the range of reason. We know by experience the sufferings of the present; but only Divine foresight can acquaint us with the glory of the future. It is granted that in the present condition of Christians is nothing which can justify an expectation so glowing. The star is in its station in the heavens, although hidden beneath a cloud; when the sky is cleared, the star shines out in its brilliancy. So, for the present, our life is "hid with Christ in God;" and "we know not what we shall be." Our capacities and circumstances do not allow of our comprehension of a state which only the glorified nature can take in. The coming glory is spiritual, consists in closer fellow, ship with the Saviour and in perfect harmony with God himself. "When Christ, who is our Life, shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory." This is the prospect of the sons of God, the joint-heirs with Christ, the partakers of their Lord's character and spirit. It is the prospect of an endless blessedness; for its eternity is part of its Divine perfection. Nothing less than a glory which never wanes is worthy of the Giver, or satisfying to the recipient. The quality and the immortality of the glory of heaven, when taken together, manifestly outweigh all the privations the conflicts, the temptations, in a word, the "much tribulation" through which we must enter into the kingdom of heaven.
III. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH GOVERNED THE APOSTLE 'S PERSONAL LIFE . Observe that he says, "I reckon." It was his own deliberately reached conclusion. He had adopted this opinion long ago, and he retained it still. Otherwise he would not have continued to lead the life of a Christian and an apostle. His choice had brought him much outward suffering and adversity. From the first, he had been exposed to persecution from Jews and Gentiles; he had endured many hardships and dangers in his missionary life; he had suffered the loss of all things. His choice had occasioned him much spiritual conflict. The strife between the old nature and the new, the anxiety he felt as to his own fidelity, the buffetings of Satan he encountered,—all these were sufferings strictly consequent upon his union with Christ. Yet it is clear that Paul did not repent his choice. Even to the end he " counted all things as loss, that he might win Christ, and be found in him for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord." He had present consolations, very precious and sustaining; for he was supported by the grace which ever proved sufficient for him, and, knowing whom he trusted, he was persuaded that he was able to keep that which was committed unto him against that day. And when the mercy and favour of the present were added to the glorious prospects of a heavenly inheritance, how could the sufferings of life be allowed to counterbalance privileges so precious and hopes so bright?
IV. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH HAS SUSTAINED THE FAITH AND COURAGE OF MULTITUDES OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST IN EVERY AGE . This has been the case, not only with those who have been called upon to witness to their Saviour by public labours and by public sufferings, with those who have contended upon the high places of the field; but also with myriads of lowly, faithful, patient hearts, that have endured in silence the reproach of Christ, that have borne in silence the cross of Christ. The well-founded hope of glory has animated and sustained such amidst petty persecutions, amidst galling misrepresentations, amidst spiritual conflicts, fightings without and fears within. The hymns of the Church are a witness to this; in every land and in every age these hymns have expressed the longings of the universal heart of Christendom for the repose, the fellowship, the delights, of the heavenly Jerusalem. And they have been wont to make these longings centre in that Divine Redeemer who is the Sun of the eternal city, and whose presence makes it light and glorious.
V. THIS IS A CALCULATION WHICH MAY BE COMMENDED TO ALL CHRISTIANS WHO ARE CAST DOWN AND DISTRESSED BY THE DIFFICULTIES OF THE WAY . Some are tried by adversity, and are tempted to say of the circumstances surrounding them, "All these things are against me." Others are smitten by bereavement; their dear and trusted friends are taken from their side by death. Others are persecuted for righteousness' sake. Others endure great spiritual conflicts, and sometimes know not how to bear up against the assaults of the adversary. Others are weary, in body and in mind, under the pressure of cares and responsibilities. To all such it is lawful to say, "'The end of all things is at hand.' The period of probation is nearly over. Hold on a little longer. 'Be faithful unto death.' There awaits you rest after your pilgrimage, and triumph after your warfare, songs after your tears, and glory after your depression. The revelation of which the text speaks is not far off. And, in the glory it shall manifest, all your weariness and woes shall be forgotten. You shall see Jesus, and in his presence no darkness is."
The privileges and responsibilities of the children of God.
The apostle in these verses makes a high claim for believers—the claim of being children of God. In this eighth chapter he unfolds, as in a panoramic view, the whole plan of salvation. He begins with the idea that those who are in Christ Jesus are delivered from condemnation. But salvation is something more than that. It means sonship also. And step by step, verse by verse, the apostle advances, at each step unfolding some fresh view of the Christian's privileges, till at last, as he surveys the whole field of sin and sorrow, of joy and suffering, of trials and temptations, of time and eternity, he grows stronger in the confidence of his sonship, and exclaims, "For! am persuaded, that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I. THE PRIVILEGES OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD .
1. God is their Father. They can say that in a special and spiritual sense. In one sense all human beings are the offspring of God. We are all the creatures of his hand, and are dependent continually upon his bountiful care. But sin has come in and separated us from him. It has made us prone to disobey rather than to fulfil our Father's commands. Jesus came into this world that he might bring us back again into the relationship of God's spiritual children. He became a child of humanity that we might become children of God. He became "sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." All who believe on him are born again. They are by creation God's children; now they are his by a spiritual birth. Now they receive "the Spirit of adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father" ( Romans 8:15 ). Oh, the greatness of our heavenly Father's love! He has not cast us off. He has sent his own Son to bring us back, to restore his image in our hearts, and by-and-by to have us sit down with him in his everlasting kingdom.
2. Jesus Christ is their elder Brother. "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" ( Romans 8:17 ). The inheritance which Christ has we have, if by receiving him we become children of God. It is almost too great a privilege to conceive, but it is plainly revealed to us by God. If we are Christ's, all things are ours; for we are Christ's, and Christ is God's. Christ's own prayer was, "Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." And then there is a family likeness between the children of God by adoption and their elder Brother. If children of some humble rank were adopted into a noble or royal family, there would be a great dissimilarity between them and the children of that family. There would not be community of feeling. It seems a wonderful thing that we, poor, weak, sinful creatures, should be adopted into the family of God, and made the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. How can there be any likeness between us and him? But God has provided for this. Those are remarkable words, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the Firstborn among many brethren" ( Romans 8:29 ). Thus God has provided that as we are to be the brethren of Christ, we shall be like him. "Beloved , now are we the sons of God, and 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 as he is." This likeness to Christ is a gradual growth. It is the development of the Christian character. It is not in the infant lying in the cradle that much likeness to its parent can be detected. But as the body matures, as the features become more marked, as the individuality of character begins to show itself, then we see the likeness, and we say, He is his father's son, She is her mother's daughter. Those beautiful statues of the Louvre or of Florence, which are the admiration of the world, did not spring by magic from the sculptor's hands. He had his ideal. He had his plan. With that ideal before him, he took the rough material, and on it he gradually worked out his plans. He first modelled his figure in clay, and then took the rough, shapeless mass of marble, in which no one could see any traces of the future statue's loveliness or symmetry of form. But the sculptor's love for his work, the skill of his hand, the patience and perseverance of his mind, the hammer and chisel which he wielded, slowly but surely accomplished his purpose, until at last the statue stood forth in all its beauty. So God has his ideal for the Christian—likeness to Christ, the image of his Son. He has his plan, the plan of redemption, of sanctification. With that ideal before him he takes our human nature, and, by the slow and sometimes painful discipline of Christian experience, he develops the Christian character, until at last the believer is found meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light.
3. The Spirit of God is their Helper. There are three ways mentioned by the apostle in which the Spirit helps us.
4. Heaven is their home. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" ( Romans 8:18 ). While enjoying the fellowship of our earthly homes, let us think of the better home on high, the only home that shall never be broken up.
II. THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD . They are summed up in the apostle's brief words, "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh" ( Romans 8:12 ). "If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" ( Romans 8:13 ). We are to remember that we are debtors. We are to reflect how much we owe. We are to realize God's claims upon us. We are to think of the claims of that heavenly Father who has condescended to adopt us as his children, and who is constantly caring for us. We are to think of the claims of that loving Saviour who gave himself for us. We are to think of the claims of that Spirit who has quickened us from the dead, who has been enlightening our minds, and who is renewing us after the image of God.
"All that I am, e'en here on earth,
All that I hope to be
When Jesus comes, and glory dawns,
I owe it, Lord, to thee."
The redemption of the creation
"If so be that we suffer with him." Then we do suffer? Yes, even as he did. For ours is a redemptive history, and redemption is not without pain. But the future—oh, how the glory eclipses all the momentary trial! So was it with himself. "For the joy that was set before him," he "endured the cross, despising the shame" ( Hebrews 12:2 ). And so shall it be with us. We may well join the apostle in his triumphant outburst of hope, "For I reckon," etc. Ours is the hope of an immortal glory; nay, the hope is the hope of the world: "the earnest expectation of the creation," etc. So, then, we have for our consideration—the present pains, the future glory.
I. THE PRESENT PAINS .
1. Of the creation. This expression must not be toned down. It refers to all the creation, outside of man himself, with which man has to do; our "world," which is connected by a mysterious solidarity with ourselves, sorrowing in our sorrow, rejoicing in our joy. Once? It was "very good;" all was harmony, beauty, peace. We may not tell what were the joys of the early creation, but it was the garden of the Lord, the paradise of man. The ravages of the storm, the desolations of the wilderness, were then unknown; the creatures preyed not one upon another then; love, liberty, and life were all in all. But man's fall drew a shadow-oh, how dark!—across the beauty; and for love, liberty, and life, there were then strife, bondage, death! "The creation was subjected to vanity;" yes, cursed was the world for man's sake. And now? Look around you: "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together." The earthquake and storm, the arid desert and dreary seas, the inhospitable clime, the unfriendly skies, the blighted harvests—the shadow of the cross! And the ravages of the animal world: destruction, pain, death. And at last? "The fashion of this world passeth away!"
2. Of ourselves. The nature-part of us is likewise " subject to vanity:" we groan. Disease, death—of our own frame and organic life; of our relationships. Oh, how we are mocked: dust, dust, dust!
II. THE FUTURE GLORY .
1. Of ourselves. We are God's children by faith in Christ; his adopted ones. But though the adoption is real, it is not yet manifest to the universe. No, nor to ourselves in its fulness. As though a beggar-child were adopted by a king, but for a while must still appear in beggar-garments. Oh, it shall not be always so! The beggar-garments shall be cast away, and the royal robe assumed; our sonship shall be made manifest to all: we wait "for the redemption of our body." Yes, God's purposes shall be accomplished; in the resurrection of the Son they are pledged to fulfilment; the body of our humiliation shall be made like to the body of his glory, and "then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory."
2. Of the creation. But if we wait, and wait in hope, so does our creation wait, groan, yearn for the revealing of the sons of God. The ἀποκαραδοκία ! The decay and death not intrinsically pertaining to it; no, not if God's world. The vanity to which it was subjected, the mockery of aim, the frustration of purpose, this was all "in hope." And as by man came the curse, by man comes the blessing. Bondage, corruption, through the sin? Yes; and liberty, glory, through the great redemption! Whatever of evil was done, shall be undone; the blot shall be wiped away; the shadow shall pass that the eternal light may shine. And all our relationships with the world, and with one another, these shall be remade then; delivered, glorified! Oh, how the heart has bled—bled because of the frustrations and rendings of this world. Oh, how the heart shall bound—bound with the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ; a gospel, not in word only, but in power, delivering power that shall work its deliverance on man's whole nature, all man's relationships, man's whole world!
Shall ours, then, not be the patience—"we wait for it "? Yes for he giveth grace. But shall we not know something of the triumph too? Shall we not grasp the future, and almost live in it as though the present were not? Yes; for ourselves, for our dear ones, for our dear world, "I reckon" etc.—T.F.L.
Salvation in spite of suffering.
"Paradise regained" in this life is not a sorrowless and painless condition. The sons of God are chastened. They know what suffering is. And there is here the great religious evidence. When the world sees men and women composed and even cheerful amid untold tribulation, then it sees a reality in religion. Job, for instance, was an evidence for the reality of religion that, even Satan himself could not gainsay or deny. How is it that the Christian spirit can assert its supremacy amid suffering of the most intense character? It is because it is enabled to keep its eye on the hidden good, and bless God for it. And so in this section we have the spirit of the apostle asserting itself upon this important subject.
I. THERE IS THE CONTRAST BETWEEN PRESENT SUFFERINGS AND THE PERFECTED SANCTIFICATION . (Verse 18.) God's end in his dispensations is to create a glory in us of an eternal character—the glory of sanctification when it comes in fulness. We may see the price we pay in the stanzas of the poetess.
"Through long days did Anguish,
And sad nights did Pain,
Forge my shield, Endurance,
Bright and free from stain!
"Doubt, in misty caverns,
'Mid dark horrors sought,
Till my peerless jewel,
Faith, to me she brought,
"Sorrow that I wearied
Should remain so long,
Wreathed my starry glory
The bright crown of Song.
"Strife that racked my spirit
Without hope or rest,
Left the blooming flower,
Patience, in my breast."
(Miss Procter's 'Legends and Lyrics.')
Now, when we look at what is paid and what is bought, we must admit that the bargain is a good one, for the glory of sanctification is weighty and eternal. "The light affliction," says the apostle elsewhere, "which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory ( 2 Corinthians 4:17 ).
II. IN SUFFERING WE ARE IN FELLOWSHIP WITH THE WHOLE CREATION . (Verses 19-22.) When we look into the Book of Job we see that the man of God is a special sufferer. But God points out in the sequel of the book that the perplexity in Job's experience is matched by the perplexity which pervades all nature. So is it with suffering. We may see it all through nature. Suffering human nature is only in line with suffering nature. And here we have to remark that:
1. The study of nature shows long progress through suffering towards higher forms. This is the lesson of evolution so far as it is a truth. The "struggle for existence" is painful progress towards more perfect forms. It may seem to our philosophic laureate a mystery that nature should be "so careful of the type," and "so careless of the single life;" nay, he goes on to see that she lets "a thousand types" go, and seems to care for nothing. £ But if we take the great procession as a whole, we may see that it embodies progress through pain to more perfect form. The groaning creation thus sheds light on sanctification through suffering and pain.
2. Out of the present is to be born a new state of things in which nature shall share in the restoration of the sons of God. The very word "nature," which signifies "something about to be born," is a prophecy similar to what the apostle here gives. If Nature, without any moral fault, has been subjected to vanity; if it has, without consent on her part, been made the painful illustration of moral and spiritual truth; then we may expect a just Governor like God to give Nature compensation, and allow her to share in the glorious liberty of his children. £ It is surely significant that that manly Christian, Frank Buckland, when he was dying, said, "I am going a long journey where I think I shall see a great many curious animals. This journey I must go alone." £ As animals were saved in the ark with Noah, and in Nineveh with the penitent Ninevites, is it not reasonable to suppose that they shall have some share in the regeneration of all things?
III. MAN AS THE SOUL OF THE WORLD INTERPRETS THE TRAVAIL OF THE CREATION . (Verses 23-27.) And here we cannot do better than take up the points as St. Paul gives them.
1. Man's aspiration about the body. (Verse 23.) For the body is to be redeemed, not discarded. It is this "hope" which saves us in our present distresses (verse 24). £ If we had not this hope, we should inevitably despair. And along with hope comes patience, so that "the patience of hope" becomes the attitude of all faithful souls. £ Then:
2. The Holy Spirit endorses our groaning after the better bodies. (Verse 26.) Prayer is not all articulate. A groan, a sigh, a tear, may have all the elements of prayer addressed to the heart of the Most High. Now, some saints have had such suffering communicated to them as compelled them to groan with desire after a better, because promised condition. These groans, that are too deep to be articulate, are Spirit-prompted. He pressed from tried spirits these unutterable longings.
3. God, the Heart-searcher, responds to these unutterable groans. (Verse 27.) We have here the whole philosophy of prayer. It is the inspired expression, articulately or otherwise, of what is agreeable to the Divine will, and the Heart-searcher recognizes in the prompted prayer the return to him of his own will, and so can answer it. £
IV. THIS IS THE BEST POSSIBLE WORLD FOR ONE WHO LOVES GOD . (Verse 28.) There is a certain idealism which inspires us all. According to our inward state is our outward world. "'Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus." Consequently, if we have learned to love God, we take all things as animated by a Divine purpose of good to us. Suffering may come, but it comes to sanctify. Faith thus becomes optimistic. It lifts up its head, knowing that its redemption draweth nigh. It refuses to be pessimistic. In spite of all drawbacks, the glory of sanctification is on its way. And so those who have been called by a loving God to the exercise of love, find as they look about them that all things are co-operating for God's holy end of making his children holier and fitter for his fellowship. We could not be better situated than we are for sanctification. A poet on the subject "It is well" has thus written—
''So they said, who saw the wonders
Of Messiah's power and love;
So they sing, who see his glory
In the Father's house above:
Ever reading in each record
Of the strangely varied past,
'All was well which God appointed,
All has wrought for good at last.'
"And thus, while years are fleeting,
Though our joys are with them gone,
In thy changeless love rejoicing
We shall journey calmly on;
Till at last, all sorrow over,
Each our tale of grace shall tell,
In the heavenly chorus joining:
'Lord, thou hast done all things well!'"
(Cf. Randolph's 'Changed Cross, and other Poems,')
V. CONFORMITY TO CHRIST 'S GLORIOUS IMAGE IS WHAT GOD HAS IN VIEW FOR THOSE HE CALLS . (Verses 29, 30.) The gospel is God's plan for securing a multitude of children who shall all become Christ-like. He sent his only Child, "the only begotten Son," into the world to secure many brethren, and be the Firstborn among them. No narrow jealousies here! In the holiest sense it is true regarding God's family that "the more' there are in it, "the merrier" will all be. Now, God's purpose, foreknowledge, and predestination are robbed of every repulsive feature, when we bear in mind that individuals are not predestinated to salvation without regard to their moral state. They are predestinated to become Christ-like. Men may reject the call of God to Christ-likeness, but his purpose is not nullified by such wickedness. His purpose was pure in calling them, even though they reject the call. And so it is in the light of this holy purpose to make men Christ-like that we are to regard the predestination, and the call, and the justification, and the glorification. The glory when reached, the glory of Christ-likeness, sheds its heavenly halo over all. May we all reach that paradise of experience, likeness to our blessed Lord!—R.M.E.