The Groaning Of The Children Of God
Cause Of Groaning

In a Brief Survey of the Epistle of Paul to the Romans
Based on sermons preached in PCC Worship Services, July 2003 to Sep 2005
Part 38b of 83

23And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. 24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it” (Romans 8:23-25).

[In Romans 8, Paul talks about three groaning, namely, of Creation, of the children of God and of the Holy Spirit. In the previous article we consider the nature of the groaning of the children of God by answering two questions: (1) What is it to groan within ourselves? and (2) What causes the pain that makes us groan?

To the first question, we noted that it is not only pain but longing that makes us groan. In view of this, in this second part of our study, we shall consider the third question, namely, “What are we groaning in wait for? —JJL]

3.  What are We Groaning in Wait for?

We are groaning, says Paul, for the full manifestation of our adoption, even the resurrection of our bodies:

23bwaiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.

Why does Paul speak of waiting for the adoption? Have we not already been adopted as the sons and daughters of God? Yes, we have been. We are already the sons and daughters of God.

But our sonship has not been manifested yet. So we are not yet enjoying the full privileges of our adoption. This is what the apostle John mean when he says:

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be” says the apostle John (1 Jn 3:2a).

We are the princes and princesses of God, but it pleases God that today we should still wear the clothes of ordinary folks. It is not yet time to reveal our true status as the children of God. But the day is coming when Christ our Lord will return as Judge and King. In that day, our true status will be made clear to the world.

In that day, one of the first things that will happen is that our corruptible body will be changed. If we are alive, our body will be changed into a glorious new body. If we are dead, our body will be raised incorruptible.

Our resurrection is such an important aspect of our adoption that the apostle appears to equate our adoption with the redemption of our body. The words “to wit” (v. 23) does not exist in the Greek. But what it means is “that is” or “which is.”

We are groaning within ourselves as we wait for the adoption, [that is], the redemption of our body.

Now, it is clear that our adoption includes much more than the resurrection of our bodies. But it is so central to our enjoyment as sons and daughters of God, that Paul almost equates the two terms. It is like when we speak about the face of a person, we are talking about the person. So Paul is speaking of the redemption of our bodies as the face of our adoption.

And on the day when Christ our Lord returns, we shall be revealed not as we are today, but with a glorified body.

Remember that fullness of joy can only be found when our bodies are resurrected and restored.

This truth is taught in the 16th Psalm:

10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps 16:10-11).

These words, as Peter would intimate, are the words of Christ (see Acts 2:31). They speak of His resurrection from the grave. They speak of how as the God-man, Christ would enjoy “fullness of joy” only upon His resurrection. Christ’s heavenly bliss was not perfected when His soul returned unto His Father in the day He died. It was perfected only when His body was raised three days later, and He was able to return to His Father, body and soul.

Likewise, the full enjoyment of believers do not terminate with the heavenly bliss that they would experience upon death. It would rather culminate with the resurrection of our bodies. It is when our bodies are raised from the grave that we will be “perfectly blessed in the full enjoying of God to all eternity” (WSC 38).

This is why the apostle Paul in speaking about the prospect of glory in 2 Corinthians 5, reminds us that while we are in this tabernacle, we do groan. But we are groaning not to be unclothed, but to be clothed upon with immortality:

“For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life” (2 Cor 5:4).

What he is saying in this verse, is essentially what he is saying in our text. We are groaning for a new body. We are groaning for a new body with which we may enjoy God fully without any hindrance whatsoever. Today many things limit and hinder us in our enjoyment of God: physical limitations, sickness, tiredness, etc. So we are groaning for a new body.

We are not groaning for death. No, no; although we will be “made perfect in holiness” (WSC 37) upon our death, we will not be able to enjoy God fully until we have our body restored. It is like: here is a man who is hungry and thirsty. He is groaning in pain and expectation. What is he groaning for? He is groaning not just for water, but for food. It is true that when he has water, he is being satisfied, but it is only when he has food would he be fully satisfied.

Or to put in another way: Although we would go to heaven upon our death, we will not enjoy heaven fully until our bodies are raised again. Theologians call our state after we die and before we are raised again, the intermediate state.

It is like: a caterpillar does not immediately become a butterfly. It must first become a pupa. When it becomes a pupa, its days of eating bitter herbs are over. But it is only when it becomes a butterfly, that its goal in life is reached.

What does a caterpillar groan for? Not to be a pupa, but to be a butterfly! What does the child of God groan for? Not to be unclothed, but to be clothed. Not to die, but to be restored at the resurrection.

…to be Continued Next Issue

—JJ Lim