Paul here seems to springboard from (v.18) to the end of the chapter concerning our suffering. As God’s children, our suffering entails fighting the remaining sin but that again does not disqualify us as children because the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we indeed are God’s children:
“14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Now, Paul argues that the sufferings we presently experience are not comparable to the glory in the future to be revealed in us: “18 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.” He then goes on to explain the multifaceted aspects of this glory which is first a creation that’s set right again (Vv.19-25). Secondly, this glory will be brought about by the Spirit’s intercession for us and the creation (Vv.26-30). And finally, no one or thing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Vv.31-39). Several observations are of note.
First, present sufferings are bearable in light of the hope we presently possess. One ploy demonic spirits use to paralyze believers is to veil this future glory with hardships and often what results is despair. Paul is saying to the believer, “Don’t despair, because the eternal glory to be revealed is worth the pain you are momentarily suffering”. Many people abandon their pursuit of God because of pain and suffering. There’s a breaking point where the creature deems God not worthy to be trusted. Yet, true believers are to press through and trust God in hope.
Biblically, the term “hope” is not wishful thinking but rather it’s a confident expectation in God’s word of promise. Consider what Paul says:
“ 19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly 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 also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
I take this to mean that when God gave over Adam and Eve for the lesser glory of the creation over against that of the Creator, the result of this sin was the entire damaging of the created order. This brought a slavery to futility (i.e., things were no longer in harmony with their intended design and the Designer) but were and remain at war with Him.
Secondly, God had a plan to rectify the chaos in hope. Even though this war obtains, God gave over to sin Adam and Eve in hope. That is, He had a plan to restore the catastrophic results of sin caused by His children’s rebellion and is the proof the rest of creation will once again come into order. The chaos will be dealt with as Paul continues:
“22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 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. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”
By “groans” I take Paul to be saying that the creation also suffers because of sin and the pain is likened to “child birth”. I understand this to mean that the pain will be worth the wait because of the life which awaits us. Now when Paul says, “we await our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies”, he seems to indicate that that already as children of God, a future word of promise is yet to be fulfilled. Moreover, this includes resurrected bodies not subject to death or corruption or futility as the rest of creation has experienced.
Third, Paul accentuates how this hope will be realized. The apostle now transitions from the previous state of affairs to inform us how all this hope will be realized through the Spirit’s intercession which is always in line with God’s will:
“26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
We have divine help from beginning to end, for the Spirit prays for us because we lack the requisite knowledge on how to properly pray and thus explains God’s purpose in salvation for His present and future children (Vv.28-30).
Why can we trust in future glorification? The reason is because Christ’s past mortification of death on the cross and resurrection to new life has been won by the Master (Vv.31-36). Paul says that regardless of life’s circumstances (and they can sometimes be unbearable), because of Christ’s love for us, we are thus super conquerors (Vv.37-39).
Those who are in Christ are no longer under the sentence of death, yet suffering is real and painful. Nevertheless, suffering is momentary and it’s pain can’t compare to the glory that awaits believers and the creation, where we anticipate our resurrected bodies and the creation is set right. Thus, we can bank on God’s word of promise of “hope” because forever his word is settled in heaven. Let God be true and every man a liar—that contradicts Him! (SDG)