Looking Forward with Hope – Romans 8:23-25

As you know, we are in the book of Romans, and as I look around the table, everybody’s got their Bible open to the book of Romans. And we are in Romans chapter 8, which is many believe the greatest chapter in the entire Bible, so it’s a perfect place for us to be. Just so you’ll know, we’ve been going verse by verse through the book of Romans.


And you may ask, “So, why do you go verse by verse through a book in the Bible?” And the answer is that’s how God wrote it. He didn’t give us a topical index. He didn’t give us a dictionary or an encyclopedia arranged by subject matter. He gave us books. In fact, God did not even give us individual verses. He gave us books that now contain verses, and it was a very long time, many centuries, until they then began to put numbers on the verses. Originally, it was just one long book without any chapter divisions and without any verse divisions. And so, because God has given it to us in books, we for the most part study it in books, and it draws great emphasis to the context.


So, we are in Romans 8 and beginning in verse 23 and we’ve been moving verse by verse through this whole book.


Dewey, good to see you, alright. Glad you’re here. I’ll tell you later what he said, Dewey.


So, I want to begin reading in verse 23. We’re going to look at verses 23 to 25, and we’re in the larger section that’s on sanctification. And sanctification is our progressive growth into Christlikeness. It is the process by which we are becoming less and less like the world and less and less like we once were and becoming more and more like Jesus Christ.


So, this chapter is in the middle of the section on sanctification. Here’s how verse 23 begins: “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. For in hope we have been saved. But hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”


Now, these verses will require some explanation and some sorting out, but there is a lot of truth in here that we really need for our lives. The key word is the word “hope.” It’s mentioned four times in verse 24 and mentioned once in verse 25. That’s a total of five times the word “hope.” And whenever we come to a passage, we really want to put our finger on the live nerve of a passage, the dominant thrust, the main idea of the passage. And the big idea is on “hope,” as you can see there in your Bible, and it’s the hope that we have as believers in Jesus Christ. Hope is always future oriented. It’s a hope for the future. And we use the word “hope” in a way that the Bible does not use the word “hope.”


When we use the word “hope,” it’s usually like, “Well, we hope Baylor wins the football game.” Yeah, and it’s wishful thinking, right, about the future? But when the Bible uses the word “hope,” it means a certainty about the future. It means a confident expectation about the future. In fact, in Titus 2 in verse 13, it talks about the second coming as “the blessed hope.” Well, be assured that’s not wishful thinking. I mean that day is marked on God’s calendar, and Jesus is coming back at the appointed time, and it’s “the blessed hope.”


Well, as we look at this passage, we’re going to be looking at the hope that we have in the midst of living in this fallen world. And in this fallen world, we are surrounded by all kinds of suffering, and a lot of it in our own personal experience. Broken relationships, disappointments, people who break their promise, broken words, death of parents, ill health, disease, financial hardship, emotional trauma, discouragement, etc. That’s the world in which we live.


And as we live in the midst of this fallen world, we have to have a hope about the future, and that hope has to be so strong that it becomes an anchor for us as we live in this world that we’re not sinking in the midst of the sea of trials and tribulations, that we have an anchor for our soul. And it is the hope that we have for the future, that this present world in which we live is just a bleep on God’s screen, it’s just a momentary time that we’re here in comparison to eternity. And we have such a glorious future that is ahead of us that verse 18 says that “the sufferings of this present time are not even worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”


So, we must live with hope, and that’s what these verses are about.  Now, this is not the first time that Paul has brought up the subject of hope. And as you have your Bible open, I want you to turn back to the first time “hope” is mentioned in chapter 4 and verse 18, and we’re going to get a running start at Paul’s emphasis on hope. And so, verse 18 starts with a very unusual statement. It says, “In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become the father of many nations.”


And here’s what was going on here. Abraham was ninety-nine years old, and Sarah’s not getting any younger. And God says to Abraham, “You’re going to be the father of many nations,” meaning, “There’s going to be offspring that’s going to come from you.” So, as he looks at himself, he doesn’t have much hope because he understands, as this verse will say, he’s dead. But God said, “It’s going to come to pass,” and so when he says, “Hope against hope,” what he is saying is the hope that he has in himself is just dismal but the hope that he has in God is glorious. And so, that’s what the meaning here of “hope against hope,” and that’s where we live. I mean, we live in the midst of impossible circumstances, difficult situations. And in the midst of this, we have the true hope that there is future glory that awaits us.


And so, it speaks to the future orientation with which we must live our present lives. And our tendency is to become so tied down to the present we lose sight of the glory of the future. And, you know, we have heard the old saying, “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.” Well, I haven’t met that guy yet because I haven’t met someone who’s too heavenly minded. The fact of the matter is we are no earthly good until we are heavenly minded.


And in Colossians 3:4, Paul says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.” So, we need to be more heavenly minded as we live here in this world, and our tendency is to become so worldly minded and so earthly minded that we don’t even think about going to heaven. I mean, we think more about going to Europe than we think about going to heaven.


So, Paul is calling us here to live our Christian lives with a strong hope of future glory, and it will stabilize us, and it will solidify our faith in the midst of our present suffering and difficulties with which we live.


And then, in chapter 5 and in verse 2, he says, “We exult in hope of the glory of God.” And what that means is now that we are justified by faith, as verse 1 says of chapter 5, now that we are justified by faith, we have hope in the glory of God. There is no believer who does not have hope in the glory of God. That’s a part of saving faith.


And hope in the glory of God means that one day we will be in the presence of the glory of God. And we ourselves will be glorified, and we will be in the immediate presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And he says, “We exult in hope of the glory of God.” And it’s what pulls us through. You’ll note verse 3 of chapter 5, “knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance proven character, and proven character,” please note at the end of verse 4, “hope.” He repeats it again at the beginning of verse 5, “hope does not disappoint.”


So, hope is a big-ticket item with the Apostle Paul as we live our Christian lives. And without hope, we just can’t live the Christian life. Someone has well said, “A man can live forty days without food. He can live eight days without water. He can live eight minutes without air, but not one second without hope.


We have to have hope every moment of every day or we just go into a sinking spell. That’s why people become depressed. They lose all sense of hope. So, Paul is saying here in chapter 5, in the midst of our tribulation, in the mist of our present difficulty, we must exult in hope. And the word “exult” means there is an element of positive joy and excitement. It’s the opposite of just being in a blue funk.


So, hope is very important in the Christian life. And just to keep this going, look at Romans 12 verse 12 as Paul gets into the nitty-gritty of the Christian life in Romans chapter 12. And we’ll be there in a couple of years. So, just to give you hope. Okay, just to give you hope.


So, Romans 12 verse 12. He says we’re to be rejoicing in hope. We have every reason to rejoice because of what awaits us on the other side of the veil. And then if you will come to Romans 15 and verse 13, I just want you to see how Paul is weaving this thread of hope through the book of Romans. And in Romans 15 and in verse 13, this is a great text and it’s really in the form of a doxology, “Now, may the God of hope.” And what that means is all of our hope is in God. I mean, it’s not even so much in heaven; it’s the God who is in heaven. I mean our hope is not in streets of gold and gates of pearl. Our hope is in God who dwells in the new Jerusalem. So, verse 13, “Now, may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”


So, hope isn’t something that we just work up in and of ourselves. It’s the Holy Spirit working, releasing His power in us, as we find ourselves in difficult situations and facing trials and tribulations. It’s by the power of the Holy Spirit that hope grows strong in our heart. And it’s the hope of God, which means it’s a hope that comes from God. It’s almost like a fruit of the Spirit though it’s not listed there in Galatians 5:22 and 23. Nevertheless, it’s a hope that comes from God and it’s a hope that is in God. And when we have this hope in God, verse 13 says that joy and peace flood our hearts.


So, if we lose sight of this hope, we forfeit joy and we relinquish peace, but as long as we have hope, our joy level rises and our peace is made strong and stable in our hearts.


So, people in life and even some believers who are tossed back and forth, the victim of their circumstances, it’s because they’ve lost sight of their hope that they have in the Lord, which is far greater than this relatively small storm in which they find themselves. So, all of that is just to orient us into these verses that talk about hope, which is something very important to the Apostle Paul for our Christian lives. So, it should be obvious we all must have a strong hope in future glory.


So, I want you to note now beginning in verse 23 that we groan inwardly in hope.  We groan inwardly in hope. Paul writes, “And not only this.” Now, that’s a bridge statement. When he says, “And not only this,” he’s extending from what he just previously said, okay, and in verses 19 to 22, remember we always study the Bible in context, what immediately preceded. And he’s just talked about how all creation is groaning because creation, the earth, has been put under the curse of God. And so, it’s growing with thorns and thistles, and man must now work by the sweat of his brow.


So, not only this, not only does creation groan because it’s been put under the curse, what he’s going to tell us now is we too groan because we had been made subject to the curse that God put on this world as a result of Adam’s sin. So, notice verse 23, “And not only this, but also we.” Let’s just pause for a moment. The “we” refers to believers only. The world is not groaning like we are groaning because the world has no future hope. The world has no hope of future glory. So, the “we” refers only to us, those of us who know the Lord.


And he says, “having the first fruits of the Spirit.” Now, the first fruits of the Spirit, what this simply means is it’s playing off of Leviticus 23, 9 through 14. It’s playing off of Deuteronomy 18 verse 4. In the Old Testament, when it was harvesttime and the crop began to come in, they were to go out into the field and they were to gather the first fruits of that harvest, just grab big armful. And they were then to take it to the house and they were to offer it to God. And it was emblematic that “God, this entire harvest has come from You. In Your goodness, You have sent the rain. You have caused the seed to grow. You have brought forth this harvest. God, this is all from You, and we sacrifice it to You.” And it is also with the belief that the whole rest of the field is going to come in, that the rest of the harvest will come in.


So, what this is saying is that the moment you and I were regenerated and converted, God put the first fruit of the harvest inside of us. Rather than us giving first fruits to God, in this situation, God gives the first fruits to us. And it’s just a part of the goodness of God who lavishes His grace upon us. And what the first fruit of the Spirit is, it’s the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit inside of us.


So, God has moved into our lives. And it’s the first fruit in this sense, there is a whole lot more yet to come. There is future glory yet to come. And this is also used in Ephesians 1:13 and 14 as a down payment, like if you make an offer to purchase some real estate, you have to put a down payment down to signify your good intentions. And it’s an indication there’s a future payment coming to complete the transaction.


And so, God puts the Holy Spirit inside of us to signify God’s good intentions, to bring us all the way to glory. And so, here’s just the down payment. It’s the Holy Spirit who is indwelling us and living inside of us and enabling us to live a supernatural life in this world. So, also please note that “fruits” is in the plural and it really speaks of the fullness of the Spirit, the all-sufficient ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives who is greater than any need we will ever face. He is the Comforter whom Jesus Christ has sent into this world to come alongside of us, to encourage us, to comfort us, to convict us, to guide us, to direct us, to stabilize us, to mature us, to bear fruit in us; all of the many facets of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is really indicated just even in the use of the plural here, the abundance of the fullness of the Spirit’s ministries, plural, in our lives right now.


And Romans 8 has been all about the Holy Spirit. Let me just take one moment to remind you, beginning in verse 2 of this chapter, “The law of the Spirit of life in Jesus Christ has set us free from the law of sin and death. Verse 4, “We walk now according to the Spirit who enables us to meet the requirements of the law.” The mere fact that we can obey the Word of God is the result of the work of the Spirit within us. You remember Philippians 2, verse 13, “For it is God who is at work within you both to will and to work for His good pleasure?” That’s by the Holy Spirit working in us, enabling us to pursue obedience to the Word of God. And in verse 5, “Those who are according to the Spirit set their mind on the things of the Spirit.” It’s the Spirit of God who is causing you to be so kingdom-of-God oriented, to be so seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. That’s the work of the Holy Spirit inside of you.


And I don’t have time to go through every single mention of the Holy Spirit, but just so you will know, He’s mentioned here in Romans 8 also in verse 6, verse 9, verse 11, verse 13, and verse 16. And so, this really is all about the ministry of the Holy Spirit inside of us as a believer. So, come back come back to verse 23. I was just giving you the larger context.


So, “And not only this, but we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves.” Now, what this is saying is that while we are here there is a deep sighing, a longing for this future glory. And the more our trials and tribulations squeeze us as we go through the valley of the shadow of death, as we go through difficult times, and let me just tell everyone in this room, that’s par for the course. None of us get a free pass on trials and tribulations. It’s a part of Christian living, and it’s a part of God growing us up and maturing us. And in the midst of that, it also serves the purpose to cause us to long for another world. It weans us off of this world, and it prepares us for the world to come, and it creates this groaning on the inside.


I mean, haven’t you said sometimes, “O Lord, just come back right now! You know, I don’t want to go to the dentist tomorrow, you know, just come back right now and take me home.” In real trials, that’s what this groaning is. And it’s really for us to be released from living in this world, this fallen world that’s under the curse of God, that’s subject to death and all kinds of difficulties.


Let me just say this before we move on. This is Christianity 101. This is ordinary Christian living that as we live in this world there is this groaning within us. And some people who claim to be Christians, who sit under what I’m going to call a “prosperity gospel,” which is no true gospel, they just want to remove all of the suffering and all of the trials and tribulations, and I’m not happy about it either, but I know that God has a wise purpose and design for it. And this is where we live. This is ordinary Christian living. So, you need to be groaning for the world to come and not become too comfortable here in this world, but be groaning for future glory, setting your mind on things above and not on things of the earth.


Now, let’s just keep going here. In verse 23, not only have we seen that we groan inwardly in hope, but secondly, we wait eagerly in hope. So, at the end of verse 23, he says, “waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” So, while we are groaning, we are to be waiting eagerly for the future glory. And the idea of waiting eagerly is there is a great expectation. We’re not dragging our feet to heaven. I mean, there is an understanding that the best is yet to come. And I’m waiting eagerly with anticipation and expectation for what awaits me on the other side.


And he says, “Waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons.” And you may say, “Now, wait a minute, Paul’s already told us in verse 15, that we’ve received a Spirit of adoption as sons. We’ve already been adopted.” And the answer is “Yes, that is true. It’s just you didn’t get it all when you entered the family.” There’s still yet a future inheritance that awaits you. You just got the down payment. All you have is the forgiveness of sin, being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and the indwelling Holy Spirit as the initial release of a small portion of your inheritance. But the vast wealth of the estate of the fullness of God’s grace is in another world. It’s in another land. And it will come when we realize the fullness of our adoption as sons. And it will come when, at the end of verse 23 says, “the redemption of our body.” That’s talking about the resurrection at the end of the age when we receive our glorified body.


So, this gives us some understanding right now that as we live our Christian lives, we have a redeemed soul inside of an unredeemed body. We have a redeemed soul inside of an unredeemed body, and this unredeemed body is subject to decay and death. It’s subject to the flesh and the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and it will not be until our body is redeemed that the entirety of us is redeemed.


Now, the good news is our soul is redeemed, and that’s the real you, but we’re not fully redeemed in that sense. And so, as John Stott says in his commentary, “We’re just half saved right now.” Now, we’re fully saved as far as our standing before God. I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding about that. I’ll just remind you of verse 1, “There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” But it’s got to be better than what we’re presently experiencing, and it will be when we enter into the redemption of our body.


And in that day, everything about us will be redeemed, not just our soul, but even this earthen house that we live in with all of its pain, with all of its susceptibility to suffering, with all of its decaying, with all of its weariness in this world. There’s coming a day when we will even have the redemption of our bodies. And in that day, there will no longer be any sorrow or any suffering, no longer any death. And we will have a glorified body, glorified eyes that we can look upon the Lord, and glorified tongue to praise Him forever, glorified ears to truly hear what He’s saying, glorified shoulders and arms to serve Him, glorified feet to run to Him. So, we need the redemption of our body.


I know in my heart there’s so much more I want to do for the Lord, but I’m held back by my body. I mean my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. I landed last night at 9:15. I’m going straight to the airport. I’m going to Philadelphia. Somebody will drive me for two hours to Lancaster. I mean, I wish my body could just let me do more for the Lord. I’m sure you feel the same way. But there’s coming a day when our bodies will be redeemed, and we will be freed up to worship the Lord and serve the Lord without any hindrance whatsoever.


So, that’s why Paul says, “We are waiting eagerly for that time.” So, men, we’ve got to be waiting, sitting on ready, standing on tiptoes, anticipating that day when Christ will come back and bring the end of the age to consummation, and our bodies will be redeemed even. So, that’s what Paul wants us to focus on.


I need to keep moving here. It’s hard not to stop at some of these.


And in verse 24 now, I want you to see third, “We believed confidently in hope.” Now, I put “believed” in the past tense because we believed in the past when we were converted to Christ. So, notice what he says in verse 24, “For in hope, we have been saved.” The moment that we put our trust in Jesus Christ, that’s when we were saved in the sense of justification, and the beginning of sanctification, and that was in hope, and the hope was in future glory, that the moment we were converted in saving faith is an element of hope that our soul now is heaven bound and that we will see the Lord one day.


You remember when Jesus was hanging on the cross, and he had two thieves on both sides, and the one thief said, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom”? And Jesus said, “Truly I say to you,” Luke 23:43, “today you will be with Me in paradise.” That he was saved in hope, that that very day he would open his eyes in the presence of the Lord in paradise in heaven. That’s what hope we had as well. Now, it may not have been as clearly defined what all that really meant and was, but there was a sense that when I entrusted my soul to Christ that it would lead me one day to where He has gone, in paradise in heaven. It was something bigger than just my life in this world. It had eternal ramifications. It had a heavenly hope with it.


That’s a part of every believer’s faith that we have this hope. We have been saved in hope, and it will grow stronger and stronger and you may wonder what it’ll be like when you’re on your deathbed. I want you to know that hope will grow even stronger when you’re on your deathbed because you’ve been saved in hope, and you believe that what awaits you on the other side is the Lord Himself who will receive you into His presence. And there, you will enter in to an existence with a redeemed body and to be with Him forever and ever and ever.


So, that’s what Paul is saying, “We believed confidently in hope.” That’s how we started the Christian life. This hope didn’t start five years after we were converted when we heard a sermon about heaven. This hope began the moment we were saved.


And then he goes on to explain a little bit about what “hope” is in verse 24. He says, “But hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he’s already seen?” So, he’s reminding us that all true hope is in what we cannot see. If we could see it, it wouldn’t be hope. If we could see it, it would be a present reality. So again, he’s wanting to emphasize that we walk by faith, and we live in hope of what awaits us on the other side. And we began the Christian life this way. And it will only continue to grow stronger. So, you and I hope for what we presently cannot see, and it is a confident assurance.


Now, verse 25, number 4, “We persevere patiently in hope.” Verse 25 says, “But if we hope for what we do not see,” and that really could be rendered, “Since we hope for what we do not see,” “with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Your translation may say “patiently.” The ESV says, “patiently.” I really like “perseverance” here. It’s a Greek word. I’m going to pronounce it only so I can kind of break it open, hupomone. Mone carries the idea of “to abide.” Hupo means “under” like a hypodermic needle goes under the skin. Hupomone means to “abide under great difficulty.” It’s the idea to hang in there, to endure difficulty, to persevere in your Christian life in the face of much suffering that’s thrown in your face, much disappointment. As believers, we do not collapse like the world collapses. We have a hope that is so strong and is so bright and is so powerful within us that it enables us to persevere and not throw in the towel and to remain steadfast in the will of God and in the work of God. That’s how strong this hope is, and this is why in order to be any earthly good we must be heavenly minded.


And so, Paul concludes this little small section that “Since we hope for what we do not see, we can eagerly wait for it.” The “it” refers to the redemption of our body. The “it” refers to the fullness of our adoption as sons. The “it” refers to our entering into the presence of God one day with a redeemed body and a redeemed soul. Because of this hope, we can wait eagerly right now with much perseverance, and it is an anchor for our soul.


So, Paul says that we must live with hope and this hope must be growing stronger and stronger. The darker the night, the brighter the star. The darker the trial, the brighter the hope. And God allows dark times so that our hope will shine even brighter to cause us to long for another world, to long to live in another land, where our true citizenship is, which is in heaven, and to be laying up treasure in heaven where thieves do not break in and steal, to not be laying up treasure here upon the earth but to lay up treasure in heaven where rust does not corrupt and where moths do not eat away.


So men, as we live our life today here in just a few minutes as we kind of break the huddle and go run the play, there’s going to be a lot of things waiting for you at the office. There’s going to be a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails. There’s going to be a lot waiting for you at home, and there may be some difficulties and challenges. You may have a doctor’s appointment. Who knows what awaits? We must maintain this strong hope in the Lord that God has the end of the story written and that it is just right around the corner.


How do we maintain this hope? Well, we have to keep our eyes on the Lord and we have to set our mind on things above, and we have to be careful not to become so earthly minded that our hope diminishes in the sense as it begins to flicker and it grows weak and dim. But the more we long for the world to come, the more we set our mind on future glory, that hope grows stronger and stronger. Mature Christians, mature believers have a strong hope, and so we just need to keep that hope strong.