Ligon Duncan: "Living in the Hope of Liberation from Bondage" (Romans 8:16–25)


If you have your Bibles, I'd invite youto turn with me to Romans Chapter 8.

Thank you Don, for your kind and encouragingintroduction it's a privilege.

It's really a kindness from God that someonelike Don who has been a hero of mine for a long time that I get to be his friend.

And I trust that you've had those kinds offriendship connections here at the Gospel Coalition over your time together.

And Ihave the privilege of opening up a passage in Romans 8 to you.

What more blessedplace could we be together than Romans 8? Before we read the passage we're going tobe looking specifically at verses 16 to 25.

Let's pull back and look at thecontext.

Romans 6 to 8 speak to the issue of how grace reigns in righteousness inour lives.

Romans 8 specifically addresses the role of the Holy Spirit inthe life of the believer.

And if you would follow me through Paul'steaching in Romans 8 just allowing your eyes to move down the page.

Notice thatPaul addresses nine exceedingly practical questions about the Christian life aboutdaily Christian living in Romans Chapter 8.

In verses 1 to 4, Paul speaks to how itis that we are able to grow in grace despite our indwelling sin.

Inverses 5 to 11, he tells you how to tell the difference between godliness andworldliness.

In verses 12 to 17, he looks at how the Holy Spirit shows us that weare children of God.

In verses 18 to 25, he speaks to how our presentsufferings work for future glory.

Now we're going to be in those twosections but look beyond those two sections.

In verses 26 and 27, he tellsyou how the Holy Spirit intercedes for you.

In verses 28 to 30, he tells you howyou are certain that you will have God's promises fulfilled to you.

In verses 31 and 32, he shows you how muchGod is for us.

In verses 33 and 34, he shows you how secure we are in God'sjustification of us.

And then in verses 35 to 39 he shows us how we can be more thanconquerors even though we feel like lambs being led to the slaughter.

All of these things are exceedinglypractical for the Christian life.

They are just as practical for us today as theywere for the Roman Christians who heard these read to them and preached to them.

And that brings us to our passage today.

It's a passage that's about presentsuffering and future glory.

And those things are not incidental to one another.

They are integrally connected with one another.

Our present suffering is neitherincidental to our future glory nor is it accidental in the nowof our Christian life.

It is purposeful.

Paul is going to connectit to our son-ship and to our future glory.

So let's read Romans 8 beginning inverse 16.

Hear the word of the living God.

The Spirithimself bears witness with our Spirit thatwe are the children of God.

And if children then heirs, heirs of Godand fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may alsobe glorified with Him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time arenot worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.

Forthe creation was subjected to futility not willingly but because of him whosubjected it in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondageto corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

For we know that the whole creation hasbeen groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

And not only thecreation but we ourselves who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan inwardlyas we wait eagerly for adoption as sons the redemption of our bodies.

For in this hope we are saved.

Now hope that is seen is not hope.

For whohopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see we wait for it withpatience.

Amen.

And thus ends this reading of God's Holy inspired and inherent word.

May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

I think just about all of usin this room understand that when it comes to eschatology, when it comes to thepicture of the end that God paints for us from Genesis to Revelation there is anow and there is a not yet.

We may split those a little bitdifferently but I think most of us understand that.

We have to understand thenow and we have to understand the not yet.

And there has been argument going oncritiquing Evangelical teaching on eschatology that says something like this, "Evangelicals care so much about the not yet that they haven't adequatelycared about the now.

" One of the things I want to do as we lookat this passage today is push back against that idea.

That being concerned about thenot yet cripples you for concern in the now.

"Wrong, " the Apostle Paul says.

Another critique of Evangelicaleschatology has been that we have been so concerned about the salvation of peoplethat we've missed the big picture of the new heavens and the new earth, the newcreation.

And that our salvation is actually just a small part of a much, muchbigger picture.

We've been way too focused on that and not the big pictureof the new creation.

We're a part of that.

We're another brickin the wall but there's something much bigger that we ought to be payingattention to.

And I want to push back against that.

What I want to say is nowmatters.

And not yet matters.

And the not yet matters now.

And the nowmatters in the not yet.

And we've understood that for a long time.

It's not something we've just learned.

We've known that brothers and sistersfor a long time.

There are a lot of people that say, "If you care about the not yetyou won't care about now.

And you'll be escapist in your viewof the Christian life.

" But the Bible says that "Both right nowcounts forever and forever counts right now.

" And look at how Paul pulls all thattogether for us in this passage.

Now I want you to see five things but reallyit's a one point sermon and the next four points elaborate a point that Paul ismaking in the first point.

So can I tell you where we're going aheadof time just so you can follow along a little bit better? First look at verse16.

There Paul tells us that the witness of the Spirit assures us of our son-shipin our present suffering.

And then what Paul does is in four pointshe shows you what you need to know about your present suffering in order to thinkabout it as a Christian.

And three of those four points have to do with how youunderstand your present suffering in relation to future glory.

The first point, look especially at verse18, has to do with understanding that this present age will be an age of suffering.

The second point, look especially again at verse 18, will emphasize that thesufferings of this present time are incomparable to the glory to come.

Already he's saying, "You've got tounderstand the now in light of the not yet.

" You must understand presentsufferings in light of future glory.

Third, verses 19 to 22, "You are notalone, " Paul says, "in the frustration you experience in the now in the pain andsuffering of this world.

" Even the creation is frustrated.

But just as wewill be transformed into glory so will this corrupted passing age.

The corrupted heavens and earth will become the new heavens and the new earth.

Fourth, verses 23 to 25 therefore we live this life.

We must live this lifedeliberately in anticipation of the future.

If we're not living this life inanticipation of the future, we can't live this life well now.

There's the outline.

Let's work through ittogether.

First thing I want you to see, look at verse 16.

The Spirit Himselftestifies with our spirit that we are children of God.

And if children, heirsalso, heirs of God, fellow heirs with Christ if indeed we suffer with Him sothat we may also be glorified with Him.

Do you see what Paulis saying? Paul is saying that "Christians are assuredof their son-ship.

Christians are assured that they are sons of God, that they arechildren of God.

" How? By the witness of the Spirit to your spirit.

The SpiritHimself is witnessing to your spirit that you are truly the children of God.

You aretruly the heirs of God.

You are truly joint heirs with Jesus Christ.

The Spirit now is in the business ofwitnessing to you to your spirit that you are truly the children of God.

And ifindeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Do yousometimes wish Paul had just left that part of the verse off?It's kind of like Philippians 1:29, isn't it? You want to turn there? Remember whatPaul says? For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should notonly believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.

Ooh, I like the first part, could you leave off the other part, Paul? Thank you that it's been granted to me asa gift to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It's also been granted to you as agift to suffer for His sake.

You see it here.

Guess what Paul says? That sufferingalso bears witness that you are the children of God.

It is not incidental to your experience.

It is not accidental in the Christian life.

It's not something that caught Godoff guard.

It's not something that is outside of His purposes.

It is part ofwitnessing to you that you are the children of God.

Christians are assured oftheir son-ship and their inheritance by the witness of the Spirit.

And theirperseverance in suffering.

The Spirit Himself witnesses along withour spirit that we are truly children of God and heirs.

And so does enduring insuffering until we are glorified.

So notice assurance in neither merelyobjective nor merely subjective but both.

There are internal and external aspects toit.

And notice also it is the Holy Spirit's job to assure not ours.

We can't give people assurance.

Remember that in your Evangelism.

It is not yourjob to give assurance.

The Holy Spirit can handle that just fine.

The Spirit bearswitness to our spirit.

We cannot replace the witness of the Spirit.

But especiallyhere notice Paul's characteristic emphasis on suffering because that's what he'sgoing to spend the rest of the time on from 17 to 25.

Being led by the Spirit, being witnessedto that you are the children of God by the Spirit does not mean you will not suffer.

God had one son without sin but no sons without suffering.

And the Apostle Paul issaying you've got to understand that if you're going to live the Christian life.

I want to ask you a question.

How do youthink about your suffering? Do you try and cope with it by just pushing it down, biting your lip, keeping a strong outward face? Or has it made you bitter or angry?Even angry at God? Or has it made you feel hopeless or do you just feel numb?Paul knows that it is vital for you as children of God, as believers in the LordJesus Christ to have right views of suffering, trial and tribulation becausethese are not incidental to the Christian life and they are not accidental in theChristian life.

They are part of God's purposes for your future glory.

And my friends, those help and wealthteachers who tell you that the reason that suffering, and pain and lack attend yourlife is because you don't have enough faith.

Do not begin to understandwhat Paul is teaching here about suffering inthe Christian life.

And those who embrace open Theism and saythat "Even God is surprised by your suffering.

" Do not begin to understandwhat the Apostle Paul is saying about God's purposes in your suffering in theChristian life.

So here's what Paul does with that major statement the Holy Spiritwitnesses that you are sons of God.

He does four things.

He takes you to thesefour things that you need to know about suffering.

But before we go there let'snot miss something.

Notice what he says just don't glance over it.

We are childrenof God.

Doesn't it sound like 1 John 3:2? It sounds just like 1 John 3:2.

We arechildren of God and if we are children we're heirs.

Now what does that mean?It means that we are inheritors.

What are we inheritors of? All of the Abrahamicpromises.

Luke and Paul constantly emphasizes that.

They emphasize that.

Believer in the Lord Jesus Christ you are inheritors of the Abrahamic promise.

Allof the promises of God to Abraham are yours.

But it's not just something thatGod is going to give you.

What is the greatest inheritance inthe Abrahamic promise? God Himself.

How does He say it? I will beyour God and you will be my people.

And look at how Paul puts it here.

Verse 17heirs of God.

Somebody says, "Christian what do you get in your inheritance?" Iget God.

And my friends if you look at Ephesians 1 if you ask God, "God exactlywhat is it that you get out of all of this?" His answer is, "I get you.

I will be your God.

You willbe my people.

" It's not just stuff that God gives you.

He givesyou Himself.

You are heirs of God and He's not even done yet, fellow heirs with Christ.

Joint heirs with Christ.

What belongs toJesus is yours because you belong to Jesus.

You remember how He prays in John17? "Father, I want them to share the love you had for Me from before thefoundation of the world.

" Is Jesus praying that the Father will loveyou like the Father loves Him? Yes.

That's why it's so important for you to know thatyou are joint heirs with Christ.

Now what does Paul do with this? Four things, veryquickly.

Verse 18, first he brings you right back, right in front of suffering hepoints your eyes to it and he says remember this, "I consider that thesufferings of this present time.

.

.

" Stop right there.

You don't have to go anyfurther.

Paul is saying that "Just because the Spirit witnesses to your spirit thatyou are the children of God just because you are filled with the Holy Spirit, justbecause you are a Godly follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, just because you areredeemed, and called, and justified and adopted you are not guaranteed to live alife of painless bliss.

" In fact, you are guaranteed a life of suffering.

Life inthe Spirit is a life of suffering because we live in a fallen world.

And Paul just puts that right in front of us.

And he says, "Though we have new lifein Christ, though we are new creations, we suffer.

" Our son-ship, our adoption, ourstatus as heirs, all the promises of grace none of these exempt us fromsuffering in this fallen world.

Indeed precisely, because we are trulychildren of God we suffer inwardly and outwardly.

I don't know how many timesI've learned that and forgotten that in my Christian life.

Do you forget that? I do.

I'm rocking along and something hits me that's so excruciating for which I am sounprepared that I throw up my hands and I say, "Something's not right here.

" This is not how it is supposed to be.

Andthe Apostle Paul is saying to me and he's saying to you, "This is how it is in afallen world.

" This is not a mistake.

It's not something that God didn't see coming.

This is part of being a new creation in this old creation.

It is a huge mistakenot just to miss the point that believers will suffer and that God is sovereign insuffering but that God in His sovereignty has a purpose for our suffering thattranscends this now and stretches into the not yet.

I love Margret Clarkson's hymn, "O Father, You Are Sovereign.

" Have you ever sung it?One of her lines goes this way, "O Father, You are sovereign the Lord of human pain.

"Margret Clarkson knew about pain personally.

You see what she's saying? She's saying my sovereign Father You loveme.

You're the Lord even of my pain.

You're not just the one who gives meblessings.

And you've got nothing to do with my pain.

You're the Lord of my pain.

You will make my pain serve your eternal interests in me and produce a weight ofglory that is inestimable.

Second, look at what he says in verse 18.

Now he begins to point us to the future.

I consider that the sufferings of thispresent time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is tobe revealed in us.

Paul says, "Our trials here are real.

"Sometimes they are so real and so overwhelming that they feel like they arebeyond our endurance.

We feel like Job.

We're just going to die.

But Paul says, "You stack all of that up together and it cannot compare to the glory thatis going to be revealed to you.

I consider that the sufferings of thispresent time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed tous.

" In other words, the glory of the not yet is put before your eyes now not sothat you can escape but so that you can endure, and engage and bless.

You're not escaping.

Pie in the sky byand by.

No, it's strengthening you for the now for those sufferings.

That he'sholding it up before you saying the sufferings of this present time, all thatit includes including the inward battle with sin as well the outward battles.

Allof that none of it can compare to the glory that is to come.

Paul is saying that "God uses thosesufferings to produce the future glory.

That He will reveal to youand that He will reveal in you.

" He is going tomake you so much like Jesus Christ that if you were to meetyourself then, now you would be tempted like John was tempted to worship theangel in the Book of Revelation.

You would be tempted to fall down and worship.

You're going to be so much like Jesus.

The glory that He is producing in you bythe suffering outweighs the present suffering.

Now you knew I had to have aLord of the Rings reference in this sermon.

So this is for you, Tim.

Rememberwhen Aragorn dies and they lay his body in state in Gondor? There recumbent is the king.

Remember whatTolkien says? "Then a great beauty was revealed in him.

So that all who aftercame there looked on him in wonder.

And they saw that the grace of his youth, andthe valor of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were blendedtogether.

And long there he laid, an image of the Kings of men in glory undimmedbefore the breaking of the world.

" You understand that's going to happen toyou but you're going to be alive? You're going to meet one another.

You're going tosay, "Look what God has wrought in her.

I always loved her.

I always admired her.

She's perfect.

" It's my best friend.

I knew him like I knew my own soul.

Iadmired all the qualities and graces that God had worked in his life.

But now perfect.

Remember the Serpent in the garden says toEve and Adam, "Take that fruit, disobey God and you'll be like God.

That's why Hedoesn't want you to take it.

" And what should they have said? "What do you meanwe'll be like God? We already are like God.

" Go back and read Chapter 1 ofGenesis Satan.

We are created in the image and likeness of God.

We, Eve and Adam arelike God.

And when they took the fruit did they become more like God? No.

Theybecame less like God.

The image was not erased but it was effaced.

And in our redemption God not only pardonsand accepts us but He begins a process of making us again into the fullness of Hisimage before the fall of man marred this world.

Until one day He will look at usand we will be like Him.

Or if I can use the language of John in 1 John 3:2, we shall see Him as He is for we shall be like Him.

He's making you like Him even andespecially in your suffering.

Are you surprised by that? If your Savior, whatdoes Hebrews 5:8 and following say? "If your Savior learned obedience through thatwhich he suffered.

" Did you think it was going to be another way for you?Do you think God was up to something in His son? Yes he was.

Do you think God isup to something in you son, daughter, child of God? Yes, He is.

And the ApostlePaul says, "You cannot possibly look at the present suffering withoutlooking at the future glory.

" God is up to something in you.

He ismaking you like Him.

And when the glory of what He makes you dawn, the next thingHe's going to say is, "Even creation is going to hold its mouth wide open.

" Third, look at verses 19 to 22.

"The whole of the non-human universe is caught up in theplight of the fall and this hope of future glory.

" The Apostle Paul says, "The anxious longing ofcreation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God for thecreation was subjected to futility not willing because of not him who subjectedit in hope.

Genesis 3 tells us there were consequences for the creationin the fall of Adam.

The vanity of Ecclesiastics applies notjust to us but even to the creation.

The creation suffers that futility.

But theApostle Paul, what's he saying here? He's saying as you look at your own sufferingrealize even the creation is frustrated.

You're not alone in this old creationlonging for the new creation.

You're not alone in this new heavens andnew earth looking old heavens and old earth looking forward to thenew heavens and new earth.

The creation itself is groaning.

Now here's this emphasis on the creationand it said, "You see you Evangelicals, you've made so much of individualjustification by faith and individual eschatology that you've foregroundedpeople and you've backgrounded the new creation.

When in fact the big picture isthe new creation.

You're a part of that.

You're an important part of that.

The bigpicture is what God is doing in the new creation.

Look at verse 19.

What is the creation looking at? What isthe creation looking at? The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly forthe revealing of the sons of God.

It's not you looking at the new creation.

It's the creation looking at you.

Just let that sink in brothers and sisters.

Listento what Tom Shriner says, "We should note that creation even though it is thesubject of these versus does not constitute the centerstage of Paul's vision.

" What creation longs for and waits for isthe eschatological unveiling of the children of God.

The focus is not finallyon the transformation of the created world, although that is included, but thefuture redemption that awaits God's children.

That's the greatdisplay of His glory.

When He shows His people the church as Hisgrand design and creation sits there and goes, because what is creation created todo? Declare the glory of God, Psalm 19.

And when He displays the redemption of Hispeople, what's creation going to do? Declare the glory of God, "Look at what Hedid.

" Paul says, "Don't you ever forget that brothers and sisters.

" That one daythe creation is going to to be agog at what God has done for you, in you, withyou and all His people together.

Fourth, then verses 23 to 25 he says, "That means we preserver now in our pain, in our suffering, in our frustration, inour futility, in confident anticipation looking to this future glory.

Verse 23and not only this but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit evenwe ourselves groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for our adoption as sonsthe redemption of our body.

Now stop right there.

Wait a second.

You told me atthe start Paul, verse 16 remember that? Forgotten that now? You told me at thestart Paul that the Spirit witnesses that I am the child of God.

What do you meanI'm waiting for my adoption? Am I missing something here? I thought Iwas the child of God.

What do you mean I'm waiting for the adoption? Well he tellsyou the redemption of our body.

The future hope is not the intermediate state when weare absent from the body but present with the Lord.

As precious as that truth is donot denigrate it.

Paul even says, "It is better to be with Christ like that than tobe here.

" But that is not the ultimate blessed hope.

The blessed hope if I canuse the language of Job is when in my flesh I see God.

He's redeemed my corruptible body and madeit incorruptible and I'm united again in the fullness of what He created me to beas a human being.

And in my body I see God.

Then my adoption will be fullyvindicated and displayed and declared to the entire universe.

Murders who took theheads off of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ will stand there and watch theirglorified bodies come together.

And God declare, "By the way I want to let youknow these are my children.

" And those believers, those martyrs will bevindicated.

And the haters of God and the haters of His people will tremblehopelessly forever.

So the Apostle says, "Brothers and sisters you've got to lookfor that future hope.

Whatever you're going through now in your body, you've gotto look for that future hope.

For in hope we're saved.

" Who hopes for what youalready see? So if we hope for what we do not see with perseverance, withendurance we wait eagerly for it.

You see what Paul is up to? Paul is stressing that the Christian lifeis fundamentally a life of endurance because we will never see these things inthis life.

We will never see these things.

We may see hints of them.

We may beexperiencing little fore tastes of these things but we will never see this in itsfullness in this life.

Paul guarantees us therefore, we must live in hope.

If it'sall about the now for us, we can't live in the now.

But if our eyes are appropriatelyon what God will do it enables us to live in the now and to endure, to persevere.

Endurance and perseverance are under estimated.

Tom Cannon who is theCoordinator for Reform University Fellowship, and I believe he's here, wroteto some campus ministers a few months ago and he said, "Endurancetrumps zeal every time.

" Ooh, that's a good word for ministers andthat's a good word for Christians.

Endurance.

Paul's telling you how toendure.

You must have your eye on that future hope.

If you're just hoping in thenow, you're not hoping like Paul is telling you to hope.

Yeah, but if yourhopes on that you won't care about the now.

Oh no, oh no.

Let me just saysomething provocative.

The reformed doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone ended chattel slavery in the British Empire.

Youknow you get this argument that our doctrine of justificationisn't social enough.

And we've got to modify that doctrinebecause our Protestant Doctrine has been too individualistic and its been toofocused on heaven getting individual believers pardoned and into heaven.

Weneed to modify that doctrine to make it more social so that it speaks to the nowand entails our engagement in this world and horizontal relationships.

No, it isthe doctrine of justification by grace alone, through faith alone and Christalone as the Protestant Reformers expounded it that led Mutant andWilberforce to spend their last breath to set slaves free because they understood this passage.

Now matters.

It doesn't matter less because of the not yet but you can't live now unless yourhope is on the not yet.

Because the now is so overwhelming.

If youreally look at it, you can't survive without this hope.

And so the Apostle Paulis anchoring our life now and enabling us to suffer and endure well to the glory ofGod by pointing us to the future and especially what we will be.

StevenMarshall was one of the members of the Westminster Assembly of Divines and hetalked about this reality of what God is going to do as He builds His church evenin suffering.

And this is what he says, "All the glory that God looks for toeternity must arise out of the one work, His one work of building Zion.

This onework shall be the only monument of His glory to eternity.

This goodly world, thisold heavens and earth that you see and enjoy the use of will only stand for aweek for a few thousand years.

And when His work is done He will throw it downlike a piece of clay again and out of it He looks for no other glory.

" Butthis piece His church, His people, He sets up for a higher end.

To be the eternal mansion of His holiness and honor.

That is His metropolis, Histemple, His house.

What He is building is you like you were meant to be but onlybetter.

Let's pray.

Heavenly Father, there are people in this room who know much moreabout suffering than I do.

And there may be people that are listening or watchingthat know much more about suffering than I do.

But even they and they especially needto hear these words of comfort that are so heavily based upon understanding what youare doing now and what you are going to do not yet.

Grant that in the weight of thepain, and the suffering and the disappointment we would never lose sightof the future glory that you have in store for us.

We ask thisin Jesus name.

Amen.

.

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