Romans 8: “Our Aching Groans”

Romans 8, by many scholars standards, is the quintessential chapter of the entire New Testament. Think about that! They’re saying that out of the 260 chapters of the New Testament, Romans 8 is the most important.

It’s here that Paul begins to hit his stride as result of a shift in his letter. Before we go any further you have to know that up until this point, Paul only mentions the Holy Spirit twice in his letter; Paul, however, will mention the Holy Spirit nineteen times here in Romans 8 alone! Paul will begin to help the reader begin to fully understand the role the Holy Spirit plays in the life of the believer. Simply put, Romans 8 is the answer to the questions raised in Romans 7.

Popular Verses of Romans 8

Growing up, and even now, when ever the preacher said Romans 8, for you, what verse typically followed? 28! As a refresher, let’s take a look at that: Romans 8:28 (NIV) 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

This is the “everything is going to be okay” verse. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great verse, but it’s served more like a band-aid for bad things than a faithful promise of things to come. Go ahead, tell the parents who just lost their daughter to an accident caused by a drunk driver… well, we know that in all things God works for the good…

The second verse that we typically herald out of Romans 8 is…? 37! Wow you’re good at this! Romans 8:37 (NIV) 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Now I have to admit, this is one of my favorite verses! This is like the Braveheart, Gladiator, General, speech before the soldiers go off to fight. Nothing can stop us! You’re not a conquerer today, you’re MORE than a conquerer! Now go fight to the death…or something like that. You can even keep reading other passages that fit this theme like Romans 8:31 (NLT) 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? And the church said… Amen!

But if I’m honest, these verses don’t settle the anxiousness I feel in my heart as a pastor. Theses verses don’t make it easier when you have to sit with your Children’s Pastor, and her family, who just suddenly lost their mother and wife. These verses don’t quite straighten out the thought for me that a dear family in our church is in the ring, yet another time, battling the formidable opponent, cancer.

Already, But Not Yet

But for me, reading Romans 8 today caused my heart to stir in a way that I didn’t quite anticipate. Instead of jumping to the huge theological boulders and debating concepts like predestination or eternal security, I found God’s Spirit reaching out to my spirit and bestowing on me a God breathed promise.

Awhile back I heard Tim Dilena read a passage from Romans 7 from the Message. Although I don’t do this as a standard of practice, I can’t help now but read Romans 7 & 8 from the Message. This is the passage of scripture that grabbed me: (read it slowly and intentionally) Romans 8:17-21 (MSG) 17 We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we’re certainly going to go through the good times with him!

18-21 That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next.

What Paul is advocating here is known as the “already, but not yet.” Developed by Princeton Theologian Gerhardus Vos early in the 20th century, “already, but not yet” is the tension we find ourselves in between this present age and the age to come. It’s the time of great waiting. In this present age we experience struggle, heartache, and even death; but in the age to come, there will be no more death, no more mourning, no more crying or pain, for the old order of things will pass away (Revelation 21:4).

Conclusion

So since we find ourselves in the “already, but not yet,” what then do we do? How then are we to act? What do we say to people who are going through such difficult situations? How do we justify that God loves us, yet we still experience such deep hurt and anguish? I leave you with these words… (again, read it slowly and intentionally)

Romans 8:26-28 (MSG) 26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.