Art Toombs Ministries

Online Bible Commentary

Suffering
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits 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 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. 26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (NKJV)






Paul wrote this letter from Corinth, Greece during a three month visit to the church there in late 56 and early 57 A.D. The letter is heavy with Christian Doctrine, Christian teaching.

The teaching for chapters six through eight is sanctification. Sanctification can be defined as the process of being made holy.

Chapter six introduces positional and practical sanctification. Paul then elaborates on positional sanctification in chapter seven and practical sanctification in chapter eight.

In chapter six, Paul taught sanctification as being positional, meaning our standing with God, and as being practical, meaning how we work out this standing in our lives.

Referring to positional sanctification Paul wrote: “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.” (Romans 6:10). On the cross, Christ finished the work of sin. Sin died and Christ was risen to “live to God” a new life as the Resurrected Christ.

Next, he wrote “Just as Christ died to sin, likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin (Romans 6:11a). Positionally, Christ’s death on the cross put sin to death and we Christians died to sin with Him. Practically, Paul commands us to “be dead indeed to sin”.

Christ has declared us dead to sin. Positional sanctification says that we are dead to sin, we are unable to sin. When we become a Christian, we become a new creation, dead to sin and alive to righteousness, “alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (v. 6:11b).

But there is still a problem, positionally, that Paul details in chapter seven. He writes “So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” (v. 7:25b).

We serve the “law of God” with our spiritual selves. But we still serve “the law of sin” with our physical selves.

So, we, as Christians, still have a sin problem, positionally. We must work out this problem practically.

That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. When we become a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells us. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word “indwell”, theologically, as meaning “to be permanently present in someone’s soul or mind: to possess spiritually”.

In this passage, Paul continues with how the Holy Spirit works to sanctify Christians. He writes of the Holy Spirit’s role during times of suffering.

Paul writes “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (v. 18). Contrary to the belief of some Christians, we are not immune to suffering.

The Bible says that the rain falls both on the just and the unjust (Mt. 5:45). Paul makes it clear here that Christians will suffer, just as Christ suffered on the cross.

However, our sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that we will receive in Heaven. It will all be worthwhile.

There is a purpose to suffering. It is attaining for us our glory in Heaven (2 Cor. 4:17).

“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (v. 19). Not only will we receive glory in Heaven, but we will also receive glory when we, “the sons of God”, are revealed when we return with Christ to rule the world.

In fact, the whole creation waits eagerly in earnest expectation for this revealing. All of creation was cursed when sin came into the world through Adam and Eve. The earth was cursed, innocent animals suffered and died, and, of course, mankind suffered and died.

“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope;” (v. 20). God commanded all of this suffering upon the creation “in hope”, the hope that the creation will be set free of the effects of sin.

“Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (v. 21). All of creation will be freed from the bondage of sin and will be brought into “the glorious liberty of the children of God” in Heaven.

“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (v. 22). Until that time, the whole creation suffers from the presence of sin in the world.

“Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” (v. 23). We Christians, who have “the firstfruits of the Spirit”, the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14), still suffer from the effects of sin in the world as we wait for our bodily redemption. Our suffering takes many forms, from sickness and persecution, to pain, to death.

“For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees?” (v. 24). We Christians were “saved in this hope”, the hope of bodily redemption.

However, this hope is not a maybe. It is a sure thing. We already see it, through reading the Gospel. We already have salvation, even though we have not yet received it. So why do we still hope?

“But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” (v. 25). Our hope is because, even though we know we have received our salvation, we still have not yet received it. And so, we wait eagerly for it, while we persevere in our faith.

“Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (v. 26). The Holy Spirit is our Helper (John 14:26). He helps us when we are weak, and not progressing in our sanctification.

Even when we don’t know what to pray for anymore, the Holy Spirit will take our weak prayers and send them to the Father and Son in Heaven in the right format.

“Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (v. 27). Then, God in Heaven searches our hearts and knows the mind of the Holy Spirit in us.

As the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, the saints, he renders our prayers in a format that is in the will of God. And God grants requests that are in line with His will.

The Holy Spirit helps us in our suffering. The Holy Spirit continues our work in progress to become holy. He works in our lives to accomplish practical sanctification.