Thoughts on Romans 8:18-38

Romans 8:18‑38  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
This chapter began with “no condemnation.” It is the deliverance for the soul up to ver. 11; then the full and complete deliverance for the mortal body. Next is the presence of the Holy Spirit leading us across the desert into the liberty of glory. For as yet we have but the liberty of grace, not that of glory, because these bodies are still subject to vanity and other miseries.
We do well to consider the way God secures us now by the power that wrought for us; secondly, the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. For He is active in giving us the hope of glory, besides being the Paraclete who guides and strengthens us on our way.
Verses 1 to 11 present our position. Then we are shown how to distinguish this new life, and into what one is brought when one has this life. One learns from God what he is. The Epistle to the Colossians attributes to life that which in the Epistle to the Ephesians is assigned to the Holy Spirit. Both of course are quite true, and each is important. The indwelling Spirit gives me the consciousness of relationship, and witnesses with my spirit that I am God's son, when I say “Abba, Father.” This is the presence of the Spirit with me, giving the positive witness in myself of His indwelling.
Then we read in verse 17, “If children, then heirs.” The Spirit always draws consequences from God's own word, reasoning from a certain known blessing. Man under law reasons from himself; as to whether, if he does something, God will accept him. This is not the Holy Ghost's reasoning; for He ever reasons from God to man. “If sons, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”
That we are sons is a settled relationship for those who believe in Christ. We are just as much sons now as if in heaven. But if we are sons, we are also heirs; and who is Heir of all? Christ Having received all things as man, He takes and associates us with Himself. Thus we are joint-heirs with Him: wondrous thought and the truth The world may not be so outwardly gross now as in heathen times; but it is more guilty and really worse, because of despising the Son of God and neglecting so great salvation. He has brought a new element into the world. Did He not come here below Himself, the Only-begotten Son of God, a man in the reality of flesh and blood, and now risen from the dead? He suffered and was tempted, He was rejected and crucified; but in everything He passed through, He was always Himself. And this is what we ought to manifest. For we have Himself as the new life in us though in earthen vessels. We have this everlasting element of Him, not of the world. By indulging the old man or the flesh, we give Satan a handle. But if He is our life, how can we mix with the world? It can never have one tittle in common with the life the Christian has with God. Whenever one has anything to do on common ground with it, the flesh comes in it, and not the Spirit.
Know you not what the life of Christ down here was? Ours is the same. Christ was not of the world but a stranger, and a man of sorrows. So are we, so must we be. The life I have as a Christian has its own character from Him. If we have seen what it was in Christ, it is the same in all Christians, however full of failure and inconsistency. It is the same path, and the same glory. If we are to be glorified with Christ, we must suffer with Him, not only (or perhaps) suffer for but certainly with Him. It is quite impossible the life of Christ in me can pass through this world differently from Himself. If we enjoy ease with the world, it is not the life of Christ. Mercies and comforts we are given by the way, This I do not deny or speak of, but of having to do with the course and spirit of the world. We are not of it, and have nothing to do with it as members of it. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed unto us.” You have divine life in an earthen vessel, exposed to trials of many kinds. Therefore it must be a suffering life, and if not walking according to the flesh, conflict.
“For the earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, together until now. And not only so, but ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
Here is a most blessed passage where we find a whole scene depending on Christ, the First-born from among the dead, coming to bring many sons to glory. The world was ruined by man's sin; and all is under the bondage of corruption. The creature is subjected to vanity, man walking in a vain show. If God takes his breath, he is gone in a moment! The world is all one great falsehood, a painted system, gay outside, thoroughly rotten inside. Christ went down into death, came into the place of corruption, but never saw corruption. He was raised up, the victorious head of an entirely new system, and we are joint-heirs with Him. Thus the whole creation is associated with our deliverance and waits for the manifestation of the sons of God. Creation waits for us, because the grace of God has intervened in Christ and taken up man the worst creature of all, the one who brought in all this ruin.
“For it was the good pleasure of [the Father] that in him should all the fullness dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross; through him, I say, whether things upon the earth, or things in the heavens” (Col. 1:19-21).
God has taken up first the wicked race, and makes the believer in Christ a new creature. “Of His own will begat He us” with the word of truth that we should be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures. He takes up a distinct portion in the Second man. Meanwhile He leaves them in their bodies not yet changed, though associated with Himself, so as to have all the blessing. “If we suffer with Him;” it is always “with Christ.” The Holy Spirit constantly insists on this. Creation, looked at as a whole, must wait for us. How entirely associated we are with Christ! Scripture does not admit of any other thought. How will it be when Christ comes? For immediately we shall be with Him; we are as to the body to be identified with Him. And when He, our life, shall be manifested, then shall we also be manifested with Him in glory. Christ comes in person to fetch the joint-heirs. The rapture (as it is called) is not an isolated truth, but connected with all our relationship to Christ. It is impossible for a person knowing Christ not to be looking for His coming for him. A link would be broken if Christ appeared without the saints appearing with Him. All hangs together on what our own place is with the Lord Jesus. While He is hid in God, so are we; when He shines forth, so do we. The liberty of grace is what we have now. “Stand fast in the liberty wherewith,” etc. We are as entirely free before God as Christ is, loved as He is loved; but we have not yet the liberty of glory. We wait for the redemption of our bodies, having the Spirit as the earnest of it. We have the first-fruits of the Spirit and of everything else, being sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Eph. 1:13, 14).
When that day comes, the Holy Ghost will be poured out on all flesh fully. This earth will become a scene of righteousness and peace and blessing. Their hearts in the millennium will stop on earth because Christ will be King over it all and reign down here.
Why does the Christian go through a rent veil? Because his heart follows Christ where He is in heaven; but Israel will be blessed on earth. The first-fruits were given on the day of Pentecost. Ourselves have the first-fruits of the Spirit; yet even we ourselves groan within ourselves, because we know we are redeemed, and yet our bodies are not yet. We long for the glory, earnestly desiring to be there. Our waiting is connected with the creature, for the body is part of it; but we have the first-fruits of the Spirit, and conflict is the consequence of the certainty of the glory that awaits us. “For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope.” Many are hoping to manage Christianity with the world, trying to mix flesh and; but they cannot do it. Now I am a poor prisoner in my own inheritance; but if I do suffer, it is not selfish suffering. Because the Spirit takes part in it as a divine Person in us, He gives the character and tone of Christ's life. The groanings come from the Spirit, the expression according to God of all these sorrows. The very thing that tries me, the vanity I am subject to, brings divine love into the wretchedness of the creature. I do not know what to ask for. I see misery, and it makes me groan. In the case of Lazarus why should the Lord groan? Lazarus was dead, Mary and Martha weeping and the Jews making lamentations, but what could they do? They could only express the power of evil without one atom of power to get out of it. Christ groans when He sees the power of evil, and then comes in with power to deliver. We do not know what to ask for, but we have the Spirit making intercession for us; and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit (same expression as at the beginning of the chapter). It is the spiritual mind, but withal the Spirit Himself at work in the heart of a saint. He has, as it were, taken part in all the sorrow pressing on the spirit.
It is the expression of sorrow and the voice of the Holy Ghost bringing down a blessing from God to one in the sorrow. Two sides of the Spirit's work we have seen, first, witnessing that we are sons, the Spirit of adoption, and second, revealing hope of glory. Thus, instead of being left in the sorrow and wretchedness the creature is heir to, we have the Spirit working in us, not only another thing working in us, but God working for us.
Inward work is no ground on which to stand: it is not a foundation, but a fruit and proof of being on the foundation. God is at work in us, but the work He has done for us is what we reckon on. We know God makes everything work together for good. We do not know what to ask for, but everything is working for good. The spring of all the work is God Himself. We get back to what God is for us, not only the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, but God for us (ver. 29). To be conformed to the image of His Son (ver. 30). “Called, justified, glorified:” not a word about “sanctified” here, because it is the work for us, and not in us. Like Noah in the ark, God shuts us safe in here. All is to be done for us, God does it all, God Himself carrying on all to conform one to the image of His Son. It is in God's mind to make me like Christ:
groaning, and rejoicing now. If God has called me, He has justified me; then “glorified” can be said. If God works in us, He looks for fruit as proof of His working in us; but He has done all for us. If He spared not His Son, He will give us everything; and no one can accuse of anything: nothing will be laid to our charge, why? Because it is God that justifieth. Who is going to condemn if He does not? Two things are taken up, God's relationship to us, and Christ's. Christ being for us, He enters into everything through which we pass. I cannot get into any place where I have not Christ's love, “nor height nor depth can separate,” and everything works together to show it out.
We would have had things different if allowed our own will. What! you say, am I never to have my will? Never, if you are one of the saved. Only think of God being at work everyday with such a heart as mine and your's with all its self will and foolishness, going on patiently breaking all down! It is impossible anything could happen to me without having to give thanks to God for it. If I do not see God in it, I may find it very hard often, as a father might appear severe in sending his son to a strict school.
God does act with most blessed tenderness toward us, but He works all for our good, in the smallest matters; not even a sparrow overlooked, the hairs of our head all numbered. We are not judges. Some little thing may influence the career of my life more than the largest thing. We cannot see to-morrow. All is changed; a year hence, and everything is different. If God has not met us in love, we can understand nothing; we have not got the key to anything without reckoning on God's love. If we so reckon, we have the key to everything that happens. All is sent in love (trying to be sure) because no chastening for the present seems good. Two things are needed, first, to believe in His love; second, to have the will broken. When the will is broken, we shall always be able to thank Him for everything, because it comes from Him: this is the key to everything, but ever to remember that this world is not our rest. Oh! when we look back and see the wonderful patient grace that has borne with us, what contrasts the object of God in His work for us (i.e. to conform us to the image of His Son), and our object to have our own will and comfort down here! May the Lord give us to trust His love in everything. J.N.D.