|Romans 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together * until now. (NASB: Lockman)|
Amplified: We know that the whole creation [of irrational creatures] has been moaning together in the pains of labor until now. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: It is plain to anyone with eyes to see that at the present time all created life groans in a sort of universal travail. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: For we know that the whole creation groans and travails together up to this moment (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: for we have known that all the creation doth groan together, and doth travail in pain together till now.
|Romans — 3:21-5:21||Romans — 6:1-8:39||Romans — 9:1-11:36||Romans — 12:1-16:27|
Jew and Gentile
|Demonstration of Salvation|
|Power Given||Promises Fulfilled||Paths Pursued|
Restored to Israel
|Slaves to Sin||Slaves to God||Slaves Serving God|
|Life by Faith||Service by Faith|
Modified from Irving L. Jensen's excellent work "Jensen's Survey of the NT"
FOR WE KNOW THAT THE WHOLE CREATION (continually) GROANS AND SUFFERS THE PAINS OF CHILDBIRTH TOGETHER UNTIL NOW: oidamen (1PRAI) gar hoti pasa e ktisis sustenazei (3SPAI) kai sunodinei (3SPAI) achri tou nun: (Ro 8:20; Mk 16:15; Col 1:23) (Ps 48:6; Je 12:11; Jn 16:21; Rev 12:2)
For (gar) - Notice the little preposition "for" (there are over 7000 "for's" in Scripture) and if the context indicates, as it does in this passage, that the "for" is a term of explanation, pause and ask yourself what is the Spirit seeking to explain? In fact, stop reading right now and observe the for and see if you can determine what it is explaining. Notice how pausing to ponder will always force you to examine the context. You can (and should) practice this simple discipline every time you encounter a for, and while not every instance is a term of explanation, a "for" at the beginning of a verse is almost always is used with that grammatical sense. I guarantee that if you begin to "pause and ponder," you will radically rejuvenate your "Read Through the Bible in a Year" program! You might even get a small journal and begin to keep notes on what the Spirit illuminates and how this truth can be applied to your daily life. As you practice interrogating the text (for, therefore, but, so that, etc) with 5W/H questions such as "What's the for explaining?", you will begin to learn to (1) Read the Bible inductively (power point overview) and to (2) Meditate (see also Primer on Biblical Meditation) on the Scripture. Meditation or "chewing the cud" of the Scripture (cf Mt 4:4, Job 23:12-note, Jer 15:16) so to speak is a vanishing discipline in our fast paced, hi tech, low touch society, but a spiritual discipline which God promises to greatly bless (See Ps 1:1-note, Ps 1:2-note, Ps 1:3-note, Joshua 1:8-note, cf Ps 4:4, 19:14, 27:4, 49:4, 63:6, Ps 77:6, 77:12, Ps 104:34, Ps 119:15, 119:23, 119:27, Ps 119:48, 119:78, Ps 119:97, 119:99, Ps 119:148, 143:5, Ps 145:5) From the preceding passages which "organ" of our being is most often involved/engaged in meditation? What are the subjects or the focus of meditation? Reading the Bible without meditating on it is like eating without chewing. We must read…
Scripture every day
And meditate on what God said
To fight temptation from the world
And live a life that's Spirit led
(see note) --Sper
The divine curse extends through the entire created cosmos, not just to the earth. That is, the law of entropy operates throughout the cosmos. Since it was man's sin that brought God's curse on the ground-- the very elements of the created earth, the "dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7) out of which all things were made by God--it may be that his sin had universal repercussions. The creation is now travailing like a woman about to deliver a child. Its delivery date into the glorious new age to come is tied with the revealing of the children of God in glory.
The whole creation - the entire universe, that which we can see and that which is not visible to our modern telescopes! All creation! This is an amazing thought!
Morris reminds us that the "Creation is not undergoing DEATH PANGS … but BIRTH PANGS.!"
Jews were familiar with God’s promise of a redeemed world, a renewed creation. In behalf of the Lord, Isaiah predicted, "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind." (Isa 65:17).
Jews anticipated a glorious time when all pain, oppression, slavery, anxiety, sorrow, and persecution would end and the Lord would establish His own perfect kingdom of peace and righteousness
Creation does not here include the heavenly angels, who, although created beings, are not subject to corruption. The term obviously does not include Satan and his host of fallen angels, the demons for they have no desire for a godly, sinless state being fully award that they are divinely sentenced to eternal torment.
Groans together (4959)(sustenazo from sun = together + stenazo = to groan) is used figuratively to personify the creation crying out a symphony of utterances like a person caught in a dreadful situation without immediate prospect of deliverance.
Suffers the pains of childbirth together (4944) (sunodino from sun = together + odíno = to be in pain, as a woman in labor) means to feel the pains of travail with or to be in travail together. It is used figuratively here to describe the agony creation experiences as like a woman in childbirth, awaiting it future regeneration.
Notice that the Greek prefix sun (= with) (Click word study) is associated with both groan together and suffer together signifying that all parts of the creation are jointly participating in the birth pangs.
Here are some similar metaphorical uses of sunodino in secular Greek writings…
when [after the winter’s cold] the groaning earth gives birth in pain to what has been formed within her. (Heraclit. Sto. c. 39 p. 58, 9)
all Sicily, filled with fire from Aetna, groaned [stenachai] over the loss of Persephone). (Diod. S. 5, 5, 1 quoting the tragic poet Carcinus)
Creation will one day be delivered—and the difference between then and now is the difference between agony and ecstasy! Think what will happen when nature is free to produce as it was designed to produce, free from pestilence and danger. We are going to see that day!
Romans 8:23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (NASB: Lockman)
Amplified: And not only the creation, but we ourselves too, who have and enjoy the firstfruits of the [Holy] Spirit [a foretaste of the blissful things to come] groan inwardly as we wait for the redemption of our bodies [from sensuality and the grave, which will reveal] our adoption (our manifestation as God’s sons). (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: And it is plain, too, that we who have a foretaste of the Spirit are in a state of painful tension, while we wait for that redemption of our bodies which will mean that at last we have realised our full sonship in him. (Phillips: Touchstone)
Wuest: but we ourselves also who have the first-fruit of the Spirit, we ourselves also are groaning within ourselves, assiduously and patiently waiting the full realization of our adult sonship at the time of the redemption of our body. For we were saved in the sphere of hope. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: And not only so, but also we ourselves, having the first-fruit of the Spirit, we also ourselves in ourselves do groan, adoption expecting -- the redemption of our body
AND NOT ONLY THIS, BUT ALSO WE OURSELVES HAVING THE FIRST FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT: ou monon de, alla kai autoi ten aparchen tou pneumatos echontes (PAPMPN): (Ro 8:15,16; 5:5; 2Co 5:5; Gal 5:22,23; Eph 1:14; 5:9) (Ro 8:26; 7:24; 2Cor 5:2, 3, 4; 7:5; Php 1:21, 22, 23; 1Pe 1:7)
And not only this - not only is creation groaning
Of the Spirit - This phrase in Greek is referred to as an appositive genitive which in simple terms means that first fruits is the Holy Spirit, Who now indwells every believer (Ro 8:9-note; Ro 8:11-note) and Whose presence in us guarantees the full completion of our salvation -- future tense salvation (glorification) = the redemption of our dying decaying physical bodies which will be changed instantly into glorified bodies (1Co 15:42ff 1Th 4:13-note). The culmination of our position as adopted sons is the resurrection state. The first fruits is a pledge of more to come, specifically the redemption of our body.
First fruits (536) (aparche [word study] from apó = away from + árchomai = to begin) is the first fruit, which in Biblical terms describes an offering of any kind, animal as well as grain. It represents the first portion of offering set aside specifically for Lord. The first portion of the harvest was regarded both as a first installment and as a pledge of the final delivery of the whole.
Aparche - 9x in 9v in the NT - Rom 8:23; 11:16; 16:5; 1 Cor 15:20, 23; 16:15; 2 Thess 2:13; Jas 1:18; Rev 14:4. NAS = first convert(1), first fruits(6), first piece(1).
Aparche - 68x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) - Exod 22:29; 23:19; 25:2f; 35:5; 36:6; 38:24; Lev 2:12; 22:12; 23:10; Num 5:9; 15:20f; 18:8, 11f, 29f, 32; 31:29; Deut 12:6, 11, 17; 18:4; 26:2, 10; 33:21; 1 Sam 2:29; 10:4; 2 Sam 1:21; 2 Chr 31:5, 10, 12, 14; Ezra 8:25; Neh 10:37, 39; 12:44; 13:5; Ps 78:51; 105:36; Ezek 20:31, 40; 44:30; 45:1, 6f, 13, 16; 48:8ff, 12, 18, 20f; Mal 3:8
First fruits is related to the Jewish term that refers to that which is set apart to God before remainder could be used. Under the Law Israel was to bring the first fruits of the grain to the LORD and in this act they were acknowledging that all produce was God's. The first fruits of a harvest of grain was an indication of a greater harvest to come.
Paul utilizes the metaphor of first fruits in three ways in the NT:
(1) Of the relationship between the resurrection of Christ to the resurrection of the dead (1Cor 15:20, 23). Christ’s resurrection is the “first fruit of those who have fallen asleep” (1Cor 15:20), and like the first fruits of the harvest, it is a taste and a guarantee of the full harvest of resurrection yet to come.
(3) Finally when Paul speaks of his first converts in a region, he calls them the “first fruits” (cf "first fruits of Achaia" in 1Cor 16:15). Epaenetus ("praised") was the first convert (and predictive of a greater harvest to follow) from Asia who became part of Paul’s “offering of the Gentiles” to the Lord (Ro 15:16-note).
Just as the nation of Israel tasted the first fruits of Canaan when the spies returned (Nu 13:23, 24, 25, 26, 27), so we Christians have tasted of the blessings of heaven through the ministry of the Spirit. This makes us want to see the Lord, receive a new body, and live with Him and serve Him forever. We are waiting for “the adoption,” which is the redemption of the body when Christ returns (Php 3:20,21-note). This is the thrilling climax to “the adoption” that took place at conversion when “the Spirit of adoption” gave us an adult standing in God’s family. When Christ returns, we shall enter into our full inheritance.
The first portion of the harvest was regarded both as a first installment and as a pledge of the final delivery of the whole. The concept of first fruits is prominent in the OT, where, according to the law, Israelites were expected to bring the first-ripe elements of grain, fruit, etc., to the Lord as an offering (Ex 23:19 Neh 10:35). By this observance of worship the offerer acknowledged that all produce was the provision of God and was really his. Implicit also in the ritual was the assurance from the divine side that the general harvest to be enjoyed by the offerer would providentially follow. From the human side this act of obedience was a manifestation of FAITH in the promise of Jehovah to provide what they needed.
When we experience the Holy Spirit’s empowering us to turn from iniquity and to truly worship, serve, obey and love God, we have a taste of the future completed and perfected renewal He will work in us at the resurrection. Every time we see Him working His righteousness in and through us, we yearn all the more to be freed of our remaining sin and spiritual weakness. Because of our divinely-bestowed sensitivity to sin, we ourselves groan within ourselves over the dreadful curse of sin that is still manifested by our remaining humanness.
First fruits was the actual beginning, the first installment, of the Palestinian harvest (Ex 23:19 Lev 23:10,11; Dt 18:4 26:1, 2, 3, 4); the presence of the Spirit in believers is thus the actual beginning of the future world. Believers had experienced redemption (Ro 3:24-note) and adoption (Ro 8:15-note), but still awaited the fullness of that experience at the resurrection of their bodies by the Spirit (Ro 8:11-note). The first converts to Christ in a particular area were called “firstfruits” (Ro 16:15-note 1Co 16:15). Christ himself is the firstfruits in reference to the resurrection (1Cor 15:20, 23).
To say that we have the first fruits of the Spirit means that even though we do not yet have our complete inheritance as God’s children, we have already received a significant portion of it in terms of the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, along with all He has already accomplished for us in regeneration and sanctification. This is the sense in which the Spirit is the “earnest of our inheritance” (Ep 1:13-note), i.e., the down payment, the first installment, the deposit, the pledge of the fullness of glory (2Cor 1:22 5:5). In this sense the “firstfruits” are not simply the beginning of the harvest, but are also the guarantee that much more will follow. And as this context shows, the complete inheritance includes the redemption of our bodies and a liberated, glorified universe.
When Abraham’s servant was sent to find a bride for Isaac and met Rebekah, he gave silver and gold garments and presents to Laban as indications of what was to come. That is what God has done for us by his Holy Spirit. That indescribable peace we knew when we first experienced the forgiveness of our sins, the power of God that calms our heart despite circumstances, the joy that floods our souls—these are mere foretastes of what is yet to come!
EVEN WE OURSELVES GROAN WITHIN OURSELVES: hemeis kai autoi en heautois stenazomen (1PPAI):
Spurgeon comments that "That is our state now; at least, it is the condition of the most of us. Some of our brethren have gone ahead so tremendously that they have passed out of the world of groaning altogether; they are perfect. I regret that they are not in heaven; it would seem to be a much more proper place for them than this imperfect earth is (Ed: I'm not sure if Spurgeon is being sarcastic or not in this comment!). But as for us, our experience leads us, in sympathy with the apostle, to say that we are groaning after something better. We have not received it yet; we have the beginnings of it, we have the earnest of it, we have the sure pledge of it; but it is not as yet our portion to enjoy; we are “waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body;” for, though the soul be horn again, the body is not. “The body in dead,” says the apostle, in the tenth verse of this chapter, “because of sin; but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” There is a wonderful process through which this body shall yet pass, and then it shall be raised again, a glorious body, fitted for our regenerated spirit; but as yet it remains unregenerate."
Groan (4727) (stenazo from stenos = narrow or contracted as when one is squeezed or pressed by circumstances) literally describes an internal squeezing and denotes a feeling of sorrow which is internal. Stenazo means to express grief by inarticulate or semi-articulate sounds. A groan is an audible expression of anguish due to physical, emotional, or spiritual pain.
Stenazo refers to the utterances of a person who is caught in a dreadful situation and has no immediate prospect of deliverance. The term is used in its noun form (stenagmos - used in Romans 8:26-note of Spirit's prayers expressed to God inarticulately) by Luke to describe the desperate utterances of the Israelites during their oppressive bondage in Egypt
In the present context these continual (stenazo = present tense) groanings bewail a condition that is painful, unsatisfying, and sorrowful and are a cry for deliverance from a torturing experience. The pain we feel now because we still live in bodies that harbor the flesh (the old sin nature) which causes us to we still stumble and grieve the Holy Spirit. In this passage, the deep distress is related primarily to our remaining sinfulness. This is especially painful to those who know that they have been shown great mercy and have manifold grace to live victoriously for His glory.
Below are the other 5 uses of stenazo in the NT.
Paul explains this groaning to the Corinthians writing that…
When they brought the deaf to Jesus He put His fingers into His ears and after spiting touched His tongue…
The writer of Hebrews charged his readers to…
In James stenazo takes on a slightly different sense, James commanding…
Stenazo - 19x in the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX), mainly in the Major Prophets -Job 9:27; 18:20; 24:12; 30:25; 31:38; Isa. 19:8; 21:2; 24:7; 30:15; 46:8; 59:10; Jer. 31:19; Lam. 1:8, 21; Ezek. 21:6f; 26:15f; Nah. 3:7. Below is an example in which Jerusalem is personified as a woman groaning because of her sinfulness…
WAITING EAGERLY FOR… ADOPTION AS SONS : huiothesian apekdechomenoi (PMPMPN) : (Ro 8:19,25; Luke 20:36; Php 3:20,21; 2Ti 4:8; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 9:28; 1Jn 3:2)
The reason we can groan and yet do so with an eager expectation is because we have experienced the firstfruits of the Spirit a foretaste of the incomparable glory to come.
The Spirit is the firstfruits of heaven. And since we have the Spirit now, we know a little of what heaven will be like and are assured of our final destiny. God's gift of the Spirit to the church is an event in the present which foreshadows the future union of God and His people in eternity.
Waiting eagerly (553) (apekdechomai [word study] from apó = intensifier [see Vincent below] + ekdéchomai = expect, look for <> from ek = out + déchomai = receive kindly, accept deliberately and readily) means waiting in great anticipation but with patience (compare our English expression "wait it out"). To expect fully. To look (wait) for assiduously (marked by careful unremitting attention) and patiently.
Kenneth Wuest explains that apekdechomai is "a Greek word made up of three words put together, the word, “to receive,” (dechomai) which speaks of a welcoming or appropriating reception such as is tendered to a friend who comes to visit one; the word “off,” (apo) speaking here of the withdrawal of one’s attention from other objects, and the word “out,” (ek) used here in a perfective sense which intensifies the already existing meaning of the word. The composite word speaks of an attitude of intense yearning and eager waiting for the coming of the Lord Jesus into the air to take His Bride to heaven with Him, the attention being withdrawn from all else and concentrated upon the Lord Jesus." (Wuest, K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans)
Apekdechomai is in the present tense indicating this is a heavenly citizen's continual mindset (Do you frequently contemplate His return beloved?) and the middle voice which indicates the subject is the beneficiary of the waiting. Wuest picks up on this nuance of the middle voice with the translation "eagerly waiting to welcome the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to receive Him to ourselves" where "to ourselves" is the reflexive aspect of the middle voice. What a beautiful picture of the Bride, His Church, waiting to receive Him to herself! A waiting, welcoming mindset will motivate the bride to keep herself pure and holy.
Marvin Vincent writes that ""the compounded preposition apo denotes the withdrawal of attention from inferior objects. The word is habitually used in the New Testament with reference to a future manifestation of the glory of Christ or of His people." (Vincent, M. R. Word studies in the New Testament Vol. 3, Page 1-453)
A T Robertson adds that apekdechomai is a "Rare and late double compound (perfective use of prepositions like wait out) which vividly pictures Paul’s eagerness for the second coming of Christ as the normal attitude of the Christian colonist whose home is heaven." (Robertson, A. Word Pictures in the New Testament)
Apekdechomai pictures waiting in great anticipation but with patience. Awaiting eagerly and expectantly for some future event and so to look forward eagerly. Note that seven of the eight NT uses of apekdechomai are related in some way to our "blessed hope", the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Adoption as sons (5206) (huiothesia [word study] from huios = son + tithemi = place) literally means "to place one as a son". Huiothesia thus speaks of adoption or being placed in a position and rights as one’s own child. It means to to formally and legally declare that someone who is not one’s own child is henceforth to be treated and cared for as one’s own child, including complete rights of inheritance.
Huiothesia is used only by Paul and is not found in classical writings, but it describes a Roman legal term by which a person takes into his family a child not his own, with the purpose of treating him as a full son and giving him all the privileges of an own son. The custom was not common among the Jews, but was among the Greeks and Romans, with whom an adopted child was legally entitled to all rights and privileges of a natural-born child. This custom is used as an illustration of the act of God giving a believing sinner, who is not His natural child, a position as a fully grown son in His family.
Detzler writes that "Throughout the Greek world the wealthy and influential practiced adoption. Sometimes just a simple declaration in the marketplace turned a slave into a son. It was an ancient remedy used when a marriage failed to produce a male heir. No change in name came, but the adopted son immediately became heir to the entire wealth and position of his adoptive family. Conversely the adopted son also assumed responsibility for the parents in their time of need. Adoption in the Greek and Roman world was a beautiful picture. His contemporary culture gave the Apostle Paul this word, but he gave the word a new, Holy Spirit-inspired meaning. (Only Paul uses this word to describe the relationship of believers to their Heavenly Father.) No concept is more meaningful to a believer. For adoption deposits every-thing that God owns to the accounts of His sons and daughters. Adoption is all about position and privilege… Walking down the dusty streets of Nazareth one summer afternoon I was almost run over by a racing boy. As he charged past me the little lad caught sight of his father. In a shrill, childish voice he screamed: "Abba, Abba." Then I began to understand the intimacy of relationship which God sustains to us. What wonderful, God-ordained words to use in prayer: "Abba, Father." (Detzler, Wayne E: New Testament Words in Today's Language. Victor. 1986) (Bolding added)
The concept of adoption as sons reaches back into the Old Testament, Paul writing in Romans that
Earlier in Romans 8 Paul explains the present tense aspect of adoption as sons when we were born into God's family and God gave us His Spirit Who kindles the fire of assurance in our souls for…
William Barclay further explains that…
Our adoption began in eternity past with God’s choice when…
Then we actually became His children at salvation
Our sonship will culminate with our glorification, the full realization of our inheritance…
As believers and sons and daughters of God we have already been placed in the family of God, and are being led by and controlled by the Spirit. But only when our mortal bodies have been glorified, and we are made like Him, will we possess all the fullness of sonship. And so we groan for that glorious day.
Have you pondered this truth recently?
This glorious truth will impact your temporal outlook beloved.
Take time right now to meditate on your future glorification.
THE REDEMPTION OF OUR BODY : ten apolutrosin tou somatos hemon: (Luke 21:28; Ephesians 1:14; 4:30)
We have been redeemed and we will be redeemed! Glory!
Jesus alluded to this future redemption when He declared…
Paul speaks elsewhere of this future redemption…
Redemption (629) (apolutrosis from apo = marker of dissociation or separation + lutron = ransom) (Click word study on apolutrosis or see How to do Greek Word Study which uses apolutrosis as the example to study).
Apolutrosis describes the payment of a price to ransom, buy back and deliver from a situation from which one is powerless to liberate himself or from a penalty which he himself could never have paid. Apolutrosis was used in Greek writings describing liberation of prisoners of war, slaves and those under penalty of death.
Apolutrosis pictures the recalling of captives (sinners) from captivity (these bodies of sin) through the payment of a ransom (lutron).
Our spirit and soul have been redeemed (Eph 1:7-note), and our body will be redeemed. This is glorification or future tense salvation (See Three Tenses of Salvation) which will be revealed in the last time when we are freed even from the presence of SIN and the pleasure of SIN. Because we as believers are already new creatures possessing the divine nature, our souls are fit for heaven and eternal glory. We love God, hate sin, and have holy longings for obedience to the Word. But while on earth we are kept in bondage by our mortal bodies, which are still corrupted by SIN and the FLESH (both of which are still present in our decaying bodies).
Ray Stedman illustrates Romans 8:23, 24 with this story:
F B Meyer writes that…
In his book No Condemnation in Christ Jesus, Octavius Winslow has the following chapter…
The First-fruits of the Spirit,
And 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. Ro 8:23
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Ro 8:23
And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Romans 8:23
From his natural and impressive digression, the Apostle again returns to the renewed creature of whom he had previously been speaking. Having adverted to the suffering of the whole animate creation, he proceeds to show that this condition was not peculiar or solitary- that not only in the heart of the irrational creature, but even in the heart of the renewed Christian there were the intense throbbings of a woe, and the deep groanings of a burden, from which it sighed and hoped to be delivered. Let us take each section in its order, of this remarkable passage.
"Ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit." It had been the earnest aim of the Apostle broadly and distinctly to draw the great line of demarcation between the state of nature and the state of grace. What distinctive feature more illustrative of the Christian character could he have selected than this. "Who have the first-fruits of the Spirit." The figurative allusion is to a familiar law of the Jewish economy. It will be recollected that, under the Levitical dispensation, the Lord commanded that the first-fruits, in the form of a single sheaf, should be sickled, and waved before him by the priest; and that this wave-offering was to be considered as constituting the herald or the pledge of a ripened and full harvest. And not only should it be an earnest and a pledge, but it should represent the nature and character of the fruit which, before long, in luxuriant abundance would crowd with its golden sheaves, and amid shouts of gladness, the swelling garner. When, therefore, it is said that believers in Jesus have the "first-fruits of the Spirit," the meaning clearly is, that they have such communications of the Spirit now, as are a pledge and foretaste of what they shall possess and enjoy in the great day of the coming glory. "In whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory." We remark, in general terms, that if we are believers, then we are partakers of that grace which is the earnest of glory. Do we partake of the grace of life? It is the same life which beats in the souls of the glorified. In us its pulsations are faint and fluctuating; in them they are deep and unfluttering- yet the life is the same. And if we have the Spirit of life dwelling in us now, then have we the first-fruits of the life which is to come. Have we the Spirit of adoption? What is it but the earnest and the seal of our certain reception into our Father's house? The love to God which overflows our hearts, the yearnings of those hearts to be at home, are the first-fruits of our consummated and glorified sonship. Thus might we travel the entire circle of the Christian graces which go to form, sanctify, and adorn the Christian character, illustrating the truth, that each grace wrought by the Spirit in the heart on earth is the germ of glory in heaven, and that the perfection of glory will be the perfection of each grace. The present character and tutelage of the child of God are preparatory to a higher state of being- yes, it is an essential part of that being itself. Oh, it is a holy and inspiriting thought, that every development of grace, and every aspiration of holiness, and every victory of faith, and every achievement of prayer, and every gleam of joy in the soul here below, is the earnest-sheaf of the golden ears of happiness and glory garnered for the saints on high. "He that goes forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless return again with joy, bringing his sheaves with him."
"Even we ourselves groan within ourselves." In these words the expectant of glory is represented as sympathizing, in a certain degree, with the general condition of present misery, and expectation of future good. But we must distinguish the emotion here described, from the somewhat kindred depression beneath which the whole creation is bowed. It is the groaning of those who have the "first-fruits of the Spirit"- consequently it is the emotion of a living soul. In the one case, the groaning is the throb and the throe of death; in the other case it is the evidence and the breathing of life.
To what causes may it be traced? We groan within ourselves on account of sin- its innate principle, and its practical outbreakings. Over what do our tears flow the bitterest and the fastest? The winged riches? The heart's treasure wrenched from our grasp by ruthless death, and which the cruel grave has hid from our view? Ah, no! but the sin which lays us in penitence and grief at the Savior's feet, with David's confession and prayer breathing from our lips- "Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight." Oh, what a mercy to know that the "sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: that a broken and contrite heart he will not despise!"
There is also the groaning arising from external trial. Of this cup, which all alike drink, none quaff so deeply as those to whom are imparted the "first-fruits of the Spirit." The path of sorrow is the path to glory, and the "bread and the water of affliction" is the food of all the "prisoners of hope." But spring from what cause it may, this groaning of the servants of God confirms the affecting truth, that the believer possesses but the "first-fruits of the Spirit;" and that, consequently, his present condition, being one of but partial sanctification, must of necessity be one of but limited happiness. And yet we would not fail to remind the reader of the truth, that the deeper his sanctification the keener will be his sense of indwelling corruption, and the heavier his groaning because of it. So that, so long as he is still the tenant of a tabernacle of sin and death- an unwilling subject of vanity- and so long as he grows in grace, he will "groan being burdened," and will the more deeply sigh, and the more intensely long for the uncaging of his spirit, that frees him entirely forever from its oppressiveness and its thraldom.
But, oh, there is music in the groaning of those who have the "first-fruits of the Spirit!" The chain they wear is not the manacle of a slave of sin, shaking his galling fetters in deep and dark despair. The captivity that confines him, is not the subjection of a voluntary vassal of Satan, crouching beneath the burden, and trembling at the lash of a hard task master. Oh, no! it is the sensibility, the consciousness, the groaning of the Christian. It tells of the Spirit's indwelling. It betokens the hope of glory. Those inward heavings of the soul are the pantings of a life divine; those deep groanings of the heart are the muffled chimings of heaven. They are the indices of a nature which God will before long lift to its native home; they are the discordant notes of an anthem, which soon will fill heaven with its swelling and entrancing music.
"Waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." The terms "adoption," "redemption," must here be taken in a restricted sense. Our present adoption into God's family is as perfect as God can make it. We shall not in reality be more the children of God in heaven than we are now. Dwell upon this truth, beloved. Press it in faith and gladness to your sighing, groaning heart. Is God's hand uplifted? Oh, tremble not! It is a Father's hand. Say not that it presses heavily upon you- it is the pressure of love. Oh, think not that there is one throb of affection less towards you in his heart. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God," and all the immunities and blessings of a present sonship are ours. Equally as complete is our redemption from all that can condemn. When Jesus exclaimed, "It is finished!" by one offering he perfected forever the salvation of his church. Then did he entirely roll away the curse from his people. Then did he hurl their sins into an infinite depth. Then did he complete the work the Father gave him to do. For the finishing of that work, thanks be to God, the saints do not "wait"!
And still, all believers are the expectants of an "adoption" to be confirmed, and of a "redemption" to be perfected. Their adoption now is concealed, their adoption then will be visible. Their present adoption is limited in its privileges- their future adoption will introduce them to all the riches of their inheritance and to all the splendors of their Father's house. For this unveiled, this manifest, this full adoption they are "waiting." And so, too, of "redemption." The ransom price is paid, but the body is not yet fully redeemed. It still is fettered, and cribbed, and cabined by a thousand clinging corruptions and infirmities. But the day of its complete redemption draws near. In virtue of its ransom it will spring from the dust, its last link of corruption entirely and forever dissolved. "But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take these weak mortal bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like his own." Php 3:20, 21. Like unto Christ's glorious body! Oh, then, no deformity will mar its symmetry! no infirmity will impair its strength! no sickness, no faintings, no nervousness, no pangs of suffering or throes of death will ever assail and torment it more! For this "redemption of the body" the sons of God are waiting. Our heavenly Father has adopted it. Our divine Savior has redeemed it. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter, has sealed it. Oh, yes! The first-fruits of the "first resurrection" bloom on the grave of the holy dead. Plant not above their heads the flowers that fade. There are flowers blooming there, plucked from the amaranthine bowers of immortality, and they will never die.
This page may arrest the eye of a sufferer, not soothed in his grief, or cheered in his loneliness by such prospects as these. There is coming a day when the irrational creation, of whom we have been speaking, will suffer no more. "The spirit of a beast goes downwards." But no such annihilation awaits suffering man. Oh, melancholy condition! Oh, dreary prospect! Suffering in this life, and suffering in the life to come! to pass from a fire that is temporary, to a fire that is eternal- from the agonies and throes of the first death, to the power and the pangs of the second! But there still is hope. Jesus died for sinners, and there is mercy even for the chief. Blessed suffering, hallowed sorrow, if now, in the agony of your grief, you are led to the Savior to learn, what in the sunny hour of prosperity and gladness you refused to learn- that God only can make you happy, and that God in Christ is prepared to make you happy. Oh, heaven-sent affliction! sweet messenger of love! beautiful in your somber robes, bearing to my soul a blessing so divine, so precious as this!
Have you the "first-fruits of the Spirit?" Guard them with tender, sleepless care. Nature in her richest domain yields no such fruits or flowers as these. Employ all the means and appliances within your reach to keep verdant and fruitful the sacred garden of your soul. Unveil it to the sun's light, to the gentle showers, and the soft gales of heaven. Let your incessant prayer be, "Awake, O north wind; and come, you south; blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out. Let my beloved come into his garden, and eat his pleasant fruits."
Oh, guard those precious "first-fruits!" Soon the glory they foreshadow will be revealed. The autumnal tints are deepening, the golden ears are ripening, the reaper's sickle is preparing, and before long we shall join in the song of the angels' harvest-home, "Grace, grace unto it!" (From Octavius Winslow. No Condemnation in Christ Jesus)
Octavius Winslow. Daily Walking with God - June 15