God’s Children And Creation
Last week we considered the glorious passage in Romans 8 that confirms that those who have the Spirit of God within them are not just “Christians” but indeed are the very children of God! We learned that those children of God with the Spirit of God within them are no longer to live as slaves and in fear, but rather that we are fully adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God! That the Spirit Himself testifies to this truth. That there is an intimacy of this Father-child relationship. That because of this Spirit living within us, we don’t just cry out the God as Most Holy Heavenly Father, but that we cry out “Daddy,” “Papa,” “Abba!” And if that weren’t good enough, we even have official inheritance built in - that we are heirs - even co-heirs - with the very Son of God, Christ Jesus! Last week was the best good news yet, and if you haven’t listened to it and Re-listened to it, I challenge you to own that sermon to the very marrow of your bones! It was a wow moment for us!
Today we transition to our purpose as children of God. For many of us, this is surprising. We ended last week and we begin this week with the concept of suffering and glory, but even this is not what you would think:
#1 - Our present sufferings will turn into FUTURE GLORY!
Our concluding verse last week:
“If indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17b
I don’t know about you, but when I read this I think of Jesus on the cross and the torture that He endured. There is this sense that if even Jesus - the Son of God, the 2nd Person of the Trinity - would be subject to suffering, then who are we to think that we would not also? How can we expect to be “co-heirs” in inheritance, without also being co-sufferers? Mustn’t both future glory and present suffering equally co-exist? Then we come to our first verse this week, almost a repeat:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed with us.” Romans 8:18
If we stopped reading here, we could be excused for thinking about the present suffering - whatever it is that we are going through - is nothing compared to the future glory, because after all, the present suffering is limited to time while the future glory will be eternal. No comparison! I’ve heard this interpretation almost all my life. Haven’t you? And it’s not untrue. But clearly - in the context of what Paul is about to write - it is not what he meant!
#2 - Our future glory is also connected with CREATION!
“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” Romans 8:19
We will talk more in a moment about the importance of verse 19, but let’s stay with the idea (for the moment) that this “creation” theme is very closely tied to us being children of God. This is not just a single mentions of “creation.” We see it again and again. Verse 20 starts off with “For the creation…” and again in verse 21, “that the creation itself” and repeated yet again in verse 22, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning.” To separate out the issue of our present suffering from these verses about creation is to completely miss the point. It’s not just us who have suffered from Adam’s sin. It’s all of creation!!!
In this discussion from Paul, “Creation” becomes a character too. Creation waits. Creation expects. Creation is subjected. Creation hopes. Creation will be liberated. Creation has been groaning. And all of this is in direct connection to the authentic children of God. We see here in verse 19 that all of the rest of Creation is waiting for that moment when the authentic children of God will be revealed.
This is why it is so crucial for us to fully understand the first two chapters of Genesis - the Creation story - and mankind’s place in that story! You’ll remember that the first five and a half days, God created all the rest of Creation. At the end of Day 6, God created mankind. Here is the critical verse to be able to understand Romans 8:
“Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” Genesis 1:26
We often misunderstand the concept of being made in God’s image, in God’s likeness - but here we see it plainly. We are in God’s likeness because we have been given charge to oversee God’s creation. We see the first example of this is Genesis 2:19:
“Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.” Genesis 2:19
Do you understand that to be put in charge of naming the creatures was to be put in charge of creation? To be the caretaker? Who is it who has the right to name a child? Is it not the parents, who are committed to the child’s best future? In Genesis 2 there was not second-guessing by God. “Whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”
I’m sure there must have been some temptation to overrule some of the names, right? So that one’s a Walrus? How do you spell that? With two r’s? Hippopotamus? Really? Is that nice? Zebra? I was thinking “Stripey” but Zebra it is.
Seriously - When mankind rebelled against God, His sin not only affected himself. All of us and all of creation…
#3 - Creation has been FRUSTRATED by Mankind.
“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it.” Romans 8:20
This comes back to a lesson we learned several weeks ago, that our sins not only affect us, but also all those around us. Here we learn that this impact is not only against other people around us, but also about all of Creation around us as well. Creation is FRUSTRATED. Another way of saying this is that Creation was subjected to “FUTILITY”. There is only one other place that Paul used this Greek word, and it’s right at the beginning of Romans in 1:21 -
“[Mankind’s] thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21b
Do you see the connection? Anyone who read this letter in the original Greek language could not have missed it. Mankind had become futile in its thinking and so Creation itself was subjected to Mankind’s futility. Creation itself is frustrated! “Not by its own choice!”You think you’re frustrated? Think of the repercussions against Creation - the other 5 1/2 days of God’s creation - all designed to be overseen by the single created being designed in the likeness and image of God Himself, that chose to go his own separate and selfish ways.
#4 - Overseeing God’s Creation is for GOD’S GLORY!
“In hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:21
When we think of creation - the earth, the air, the water, the other creatures - are ours to do with as we see fit for our own selfish benefit - and not to take care of as God’s overseer for God’s glory and for other’s future benefit - then we subject everything we touch to bondage and decay! But when we see our proper role as taking care of God’s creation so that we might bring glory to Godand please Him and unselfishly oversee His creation for the future, THEN we are part of the solution. We are liberating Creation from its bondage. Then we are liberating Creation, bringing it into freedom. Then we are showing ourselves to be the true children of God, changed back to be like Him in God’s image and likeness. God’s concerns, God’s priorities become our concerns and our priorities.
Paul tells us that Creation is waiting for this moment. Creation is hoping for this moment. Indeed Creation has been groaning for this moment.
“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8:22
Next week we will consider the three-fold “groaning” that has been taking place - this groaning of Creation, our own groaning and even the Holy Spirit’s groaning! That’s a lot of groaning!!! But consider the imagery - consider the painting of words from the Apostle Paul. The whole of creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth!I would expect Jesus to say something like, He who has ears - let him hear! Do you hear the groaning? Not just mild, occasional moans, but the loud, painful, active groaning of impending childbirth! Anyone who has ever been in that labor and delivery room gets it! Mankind! When will you recognize your proper role in the created order of things and get this right? We can’t do anything on our own. It’s up to you!!!
So how should we apply this? What should be our take-away this morning? 4 things…
1. Repent of your selfish attitudes. Maybe you just never really thought about this before. Never really considered the connection between you, the rest of creation and the bringing to God of His proper glory. Maybe you just always assumed that worship was what we did on Sunday morning and the saying of “Holy Holy Holy” to God. Maybe you’ve just been ignorant of God’s purpose for you and for me. Ignorance can’t be an excuse going forward, because now we get it. Now we see the connection. Repent! Turn from our mistaken attitudes and assume the role of God’s overseers of His creation.
2. Ask God what you should do now. We have painted for us here the difference between the present sufferings of all of creation and the future glory of God that we may share. And while there is certainly a huge contrast, ask God if maybe you could do something now with His Creation that would bring Him glory now! Why wait? There is no time like the present!
3. Look at all of Creation differently. It’s not just about us. It’s not just about me. Our role as Christ-followers is do what God desires, right? Most of the time we think of our relationship with other people and how we should love them and put their needs ahead of our own. But here Paul reveals that there is an even greater and grander purpose to our lives as Christians.
4. Finally, experience Creation as a Child of God.Now that you understand the connection between your liberation and Creation’s liberation, between your freedom in Christ and Creation, between the Holy Spirit of God within you and Creation, your experience of God’s beautiful Creation should never be the same. Know that you are different now. Enjoy God’s creation like you never have before. Pray for your new role. Pray for understanding of God’s purpose in you. Pray that you may always be sensitive to your uniqueness as a Child of God within the beauty and uniqueness of God’s creation.