Romans 8.2 Hope (9am)

Romans 8.2 Hope (9am)

Theme: Romans 8.2 Hope (Sunday 2 August 2020)
Series: Romans 8 (2020)
Bible Reading: Romans 8:12-25
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain

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We are in part two of this amazing chapter of the bible Romans 8 and did you notice what the first word in our bible reading was today?  Verse 12 – Therefore!  And when we see the word “therefore” we should ask the question, “What is it there for”?

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation…

It points back to all the stuff we talked about last Sunday …

  • Romans Chapters 1-7 … that we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards, that none of us can be made right with God through our actions, that God through the cross of Jesus offers us a free gift of forgiveness and grace
  • Therefore, there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus!
  • Paul encourages us not to let our lives be shaped by the worldly desires but live life in the Spirit – to allowing the Spirit to orientate all that we do.

So we get to today’s reading … Verse 12 … Therefore  … in the light of all this … we have an obligation.  If God through Jesus’ death and resurrection did all this for us, we have an obligation to (v13) put to death the misdeeds of the body – the old way of living – and instead (v14) live life being led by the spirit.

That is the challenge that we finished last sermon with … the challenge to live our whole lives orientated around what God or the Spirit desires.  But Romans 8 verse 14 Paul shifts gear and introduces another image, another concept to us. 

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Greek word is huiothesia (hweeothesia) and it is a clever use of the word by Paul.  Huiothesia it an usual Greek word because it can be culturally interpreted in different ways by different people and yet it still works.

The Jews would interpret huiothesia as “sons of God” or “Children of God” which would link them back to the OT images of God being their father and Israel being the “Children of God”.  So when Paul says “those who are led by the Spirit are the “huiothesia”, all the Jews reading this would go, “yes, we are the children of God”

But the non-Jewish people use this word in a different way and yet it still works in this verse.  Non-Jews would interpret huiothesia as “legal act of adoption” referring to the Greco-Roman practice where a man could formally confer on a child all the legal rights of a birth child.  So for the non-Jewish reader they would understand this verse as Paul saying that when we live a Spirit-led life, God adopts us and confers on us the rights and privileges of one of God’s own children.

It doesn’t matter which way we read it … either way, the point is profound … we become God’s own children.  Verse 15 says that we in response cry “Abba, Father” which is a very personal, intimate way of speaking … implying that we are not just God’s children in name only but God the relationship is real & personal & loving.

So Paul highlights this amazing flow as we move from living in the Spirit à to being adopted as one of God’s loved children  à through to becoming heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.  Wow.

But I want to come back to the cliff-hanger I finished last week’s sermon with.  I was talking about Paul’s Dichotomy – do you remember the two list I showed last week – the two ways to live.  We can live life in the spirit or live by the human desires.  The challenge Paul gave us was to have our whole life set on living by the spirit … but the reality is that we are more like living with one foot in each camp.  We want to live God’s ways but we are not perfect and sometimes, often, end up living our way, being driven by our own human desires.  As Paul says in Romans 7 … what troubled people we are! 

This passage from Romans 8 was the lectionary reading for two weeks ago (when I was supposed to preach this sermon).  The gospel reading for that same day was Matthew 13 … the parable of the weeds and the wheat.  Another dichotomy, you are either a weed or a wheat.   I am going to invite __________ to come up and to preform a short drama which highlights the tension of seeing in yourself elements of both weed and wheat?

Dramatic Reading – weeds and wheat

Voice 1:     I am Abraham – the father of the nation,

This is who I am, the progenitor of faith,

The fixed point in time when the family of God began

                   I am wheat

Voice 2:     I am Abraham, I am a lair, I am that husband who passed off my wife as my sister for the sake of Pharoah to do with as he wishes.

                   I am weed.

Both:          I am a man of faith:

                   A faith that lives in the harmonic tension between

                   This and that

Voice 1:     I am Moses, the patriarch of freedom,

this is who I am.  The leader of the exodus

                   The turning moment that set God’s people free

                   I am wheat

Voice 2:     I am Moses – a murder; I am that person who killed an Egyptian even as I was an adopted Egyptian Prince and ran without facing the consequences

                   I am weed.

Both:          I am a man of faith:

A faith that lives in the living tension between

                   This and that

Voice 1:     I am befriender of Jesus, this is who I am

                   The woman who tended his needs, who remained with him even at the end.

                   I am wheat

Voice 2:     I am a sinner; I am that person whom he said, “If no one accuses you, neither do I.  Go and sin no more”

                   I am weed.

Both:          I am a woman of faith:

A faith that lives in the forgiving tension between

                   This and that

Voice 1:     I am Paul, the apostle of God, this is who I am

                   I am the one who journeyed round the early church and brought in gentiles to the family of God.

                   I am wheat

Voice 2:     I am Saul, a persecutor of the Christians; I am that one who held the coats at the martyrdom of Stephen, enthusiastic in my work.

                   I am weed.

Both:          I am a man of faith:

A faith that lives in the redeemed tension between

                   This and that

Voice 1:     We are everyone, this is who we are

                   We have joined the way of the following and believed the vision of God’s realm.

                   We are wheat

Voice 2:     We are a sinner who has broken the covenant and walked the less narrow way.

                   I am weed.

Both:          We are people of faith:

A faith that lives in the harmonic tension between

                   Hope and Grace.

Wow.  Did you like that?  I was at a meeting the other week when a person was talking about the difference between the ideal or goal and the actual or reality.  He was saying that his team hopes for this outcome – but the reality is that they are only up to here. 

I think that is similar to the what Paul is addressing in Romans 8.  Paul is setting the goal, the high mark – yes, when we are in Christ our goal is to be totally led by the spirit and to resist all worldly influences – to be perfect healthy wheat without any sign of weeds … that is the goal, but the reality …

well that is another thing.  The reality is that we are not perfect, we are influenced by the desires of the flesh, there are weeds in our lives.

Lets just go back to the Romans 8 and see something.

In verse 14 Paul says that we are … the children of God.

In verse 16 Paul affirms that the Spirit testifies with our own spirit that we are indeed …  the children of God.

And yet in verse 19 we read this…  “For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”

And then in verse 23 Paul writes that we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies”

Just wait … Paul just said we are the children of God and now he is saying that creation is waiting, that we are waiting for our adoption to be complete?

What Paul is doing is using the classic New Testament “already but not yet” tension … or as Amy Grant refers to it as the “Now and the not yet”.  This is the idea that while God sees us as forgiven people – holy, pure and perfect … we are still on the way to becoming that.  We are but at the same time we are not yet. 

In the same way Paul is saying that those in Christ have been made God’s own children – co-heirs with Christ – but at the same time, we are not quite there yet, we are still on the journey to get there.  It is both the now and the not yet.

It is in this understanding that Paul can write that we are the children of God – forgiven, redeemed, being led by the spirit … but at the same time he says that we long for that redemption to be complete.  But in the meantime we are stuck in the middle – in the place between the now and the not yet. 

That’s the reality.  That is why we find ourselves on both sides of Paul’s dichotomy, that is why we can see both wheat and weeds in ourselves … because we are in between the now and the not yet.

It can be a slightly depressing place to be.  We don’t want to be “on the way” … we want to be there.  We want to experience the fullness of redemption, we want be perfectly living in the Spirit.  Paul uses the phrase that we “groan inwardly” because we want it so much.  We want to be at the finish and we begin to wonder whether or not we will ever get there..

But Paul says that our dream, our desire for redemption, for adoption as God’s children is not an impossible dream … it is going to happen because God has already declared it.  That is the “Now” part of the “Now and not yet”.  We may not be able to see it yet (v24) – but we can have unwavering hope that is will happen.  In the same way that the pains of child birth gives way to the joy of new life … we have the hope that the pain of living between the now and the not yet will give birth to the joy of completion.  But we are not there yet.  Verse 24 tells us that we hope because we do not have … but it is in this hope that we are saved.   In the meantime, as verse 25 says, we wait patiently.

I need to jump to the side and make another point because I cannot not say this.  I find great hope in this imagery that this hope for redemption, for healing, for restoration is not only for us but for all of creation. 

“19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

Different commentaries try to explain this by saying that Paul is referring to all of humankind, but the Greek is perfectly clear – Paul is referring to all of creation … humans, the animals, the trees, the rocks and dirt … creation itself is frustrated and groaning – hoping to be liberated from the “bondage to decay and to be brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God”. 

During COVID-19  the environment seem to have dropped out of the news, but I know that many Christians believe that God’s work of salvation includes doing what is necessary to help the environment.  We need to keep working on this because creation is groaning to be realised from the path it is on.  As Christians, we should be adding our voices to the environmental debate and be discerning what needs to be done to bring all of creation into the freedom and glory and the healing that we have found in Jesus.  This is not an issue we can just leave to the politicians or advocates … the church needs to find its voice on this.

Ok… jumping back to verse 25 … I was saying that this place stuck between the now and the not yet is not an easy place to be.  Paul says that we groan for what is to come and continue to wait patiently … we start to discover something extraordinary.  In the midst of the gap between the now and the not yet … we find that … we are not alone.

Verse 26,27 – The Spirit helps us in our weakness – even praying for us, interceding for us in accordance to God’s will.

I love that imagery … when we are praying and just run out of words to say … the Spirit continues to pray for the stuff that words just can’t express.  That just moves me.  In those dark times when I literally groaning inwardly because life can be so harsh to so people and I just don’t have the words to pray … the Spirit takes over and helps me.  Wow.

But wait to you hear what comes next … actually you do have to wait to what comes next because that’s next weeks sermon.  The ending to this chapter is so great … but that’s next week.

So, Let’s recap…

Last week the two main points were:

  • If you are in Christ … there is no condemnation.
  • In response … we need to orientate our whole lives towards the Spirit … to be led by the Spirit.

This week I would add:

  • We have an obligation to be led by the Spirit because God has adopted us as his own, loved Children!  God adopts us as co-heirs with Christ!
  • Although God has declared this to be true, we are stuck between the “now and the not yet” – and wait for the time when redemption will be made complete
  • This place is hard … we (and all creation) groan inwardly while we wait patiently …but we have hope – because it will happen
  • And while we wait patiently … the spirit helps us, intercedes for us, prays for us when we run out of words

And …  and I groan inwardly because I want to finish the chapter … next week is so good.    But … we will just have to wait patiently.