Do you like your body? Do you look at your body and groan a little? Do you have aches and pains you didn’t used to have? Are you better looking this week than you were last week?
Do you view your body as part of God’s saving plan for your future? Do you view eternity as living with a glorified version of your present body? Do you view your future in a perfect body, in the perfect place, with our perfect Savior?
Would you like me to explain why I’m asking all these questions? Our text in Romans will make that clear, but I’m concerned today for the unintentional heretics among us. What heresy? It is a heresy to believe that the material world is inherently evil. Why? Then Jesus didn’t have a real human body. It is a heresy to not believe in a physical resurrection of the body. Why? Then Jesus wasn’t resurrected. It is a heresy to believe that God saves our souls but not our bodies. Why? Then huge sections of Scripture are just plain wrong. Might you be the unintentional heretic I’m referring to?
I hope today to expunge these unintentional heresies and in doing so free all of us to live as full-blooded earthlings now anticipating an eternity of earth dwelling in our extremely made-over bodies on the fully-renewed paradise known in Scripture as the new earth.
We were introduced to this last week in Romans 8:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:19–22 ESV)
When God cursed the ground because of Adam’s sin, he cursed all of creation. It was paradise lost. The result was death for us and in the animal world. Violence. Pollution. Disease. Nasty bugs like mosquitoes and the flu. Creation was cursed. I wish that our young people got this and when they go to the doctor and the doctor says, “Here’s why you feel bad,” they respond, “Actually, no, I feel bad because God cursed the earth.”
Jesus removed the curse on the cross and, along with us, creation is included in this final redemption. It will be free someday when Jesus returns and renews this cosmos. Creation is no longer what it was. But creation is waiting for its redemption. For now, it groans. Someday, glory. Paul continues with this groan to glory theme by applying it to the physical bodies of Christians.
“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:23–25)
Creation is groaning, and we also are also groaning. Groaning “inwardly.” What groan is he talking about? Our groans are whenever we experience the painful dissonance between the way things are and the way things will be. The brokenness now and the perfection to come. We all have this sense that things ought to be a certain way. All too often they are not. Our marriage isn’t what it should be. Our government isn’t what it should be. Our children aren’t what they should be. And our bodies are not what they should be nor what they will be.
“Our lives consist of groans. We groan because of the ravages that sin makes in our lives, and in the lives of those we love. Also, we groan because we see possibilities that are not being captured and employed. And then we groan because we see gifted people who are wasting their lives, and we would love to see something else happening. It is recorded that, as he drew near the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus groaned in his spirit because he was so burdened by the ravages that sin had made in a believing family. He groaned, even though he knew he would soon raise Lazarus from the dead. So, we groan in our spirits – we groan in disappointment, in bereavement, in sorrow. We grown physically in our pain and our limitation. Life consists of a great deal of groaning.” (Ray Stedman)
Can you relate? You may think groaning is a bad thing. Only Christians can truly groan. Our groans prove we are looking at life through the gospel. A backward glance to the cross and forward to our final redemption.
Groaning is the Christian response to Satan still being the king of this world. Groaning is the Christian response to suffering in the world around us. Groaning is the Christian response to seeing the presence of sin in our lives. Groaning is the church’s response in community as our fellow Christians experience trials and suffering. In the next section Paul says the Holy Spirit groans. Creation groans. Christians groan. God groans. Groaning is a very Christian response if it is done right and for the right reasons.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2019 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 Ray Stedman as quoted by R. Kent Hughes, Romans: Righteousness from Heaven, p. 161.
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