It is not our intention in this article to give an ex­position of any particular portion of these verses; rather we will give a general survey of this section, a bird’s eye view of the whole. We trust that this will on the one hand stimulate us to the proper interest in the comforting message here revealed, and on the other hand it will enable us to see the details of this passage in the light of the overall pattern. We will thus not fail to see the woods because of the trees.

Let each read this passage from his own Bible.

Let us then attend to the setting and the general implication of this section of Paul’s epistle to the Romans.

In general we may notice, that Paul in this chap­ter places very forcibly on the foreground that “those in Christ Jesus” have come to stand in an all-together new legal relationship to God. They, who were by nature children of wrath and subject to condemnation, now stand in the new legal relationship of sons of God. And in this freedom from condemnation those in Christ Jesus walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.

Because of this new relationship in Christ the justified are not said to walk according to the law, but they walk according to the Spirit of Christ. All things have thus become new in our lives. We do not walk according to the oldness of the letter but accord­ing to the newness of the Spirit. Rom. 6:2, 4; Rom. 7:6; Rom. 8:1, 2. We are not under the law but under grace. Now grace indeed does not abolish the law but es­tablishes it. Rom. 3:31. It is good to see this Bibli­cal emphasis that we are not under law; that we have died unto law in order that we might be saved from dead works unto the service of the living God. For such is the emphasis of Paul throughout this eighth chapter of Romans.

Unless we have the Spirit of Christ we are none of His. And when this Spirit of Jesus dwells in us we may be assured that this same Spirit shall also quicken our mortal bodies. For the Spirit maketh alive and leads to the final glory. In this Spirit we are not under the bondage of the law, but we are in the liberty that is real and wonderful, and we cry in this Spirit: Abba, Father! For this Spirit testifies with our Spirit that we are the children of God. Rom. 8:12-16.

Such is the newness of life.

Such is the freedom given by the Spirit; it is the freedom that walks in the establishment of the law in our hearts. It is the New Testament in Christ’s blood. It is the new covenant enacted upon better promises!

But we must proceed.

This newness of life also makes for a wholly dif­ferent kind of suffering. The suffering of him in whom the Holy Spirit dwells is altogether different in na­ture from the suffering of natural man. The man is not simply “old man”. The natural man does not have a “new man” and, therefore, strictly speaking neither does he have an “old man”. All the suffering of Him who is in Christ becomes a suffering for Christ, a being accounted a sheep for the slaughter! It is a suffering for righteousness sake. And, therefore, those who thus suffer are blessed. The natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit; it is foolishness to him. But God’s children are blessed; suffering with Christ is inseparably connected with being glorified together with him! Rom. 8:17.

It is concerning this being glorified together with Christ that Paul has a few very pertinent things to say in the verses 18-30.

This final glory of God in the saints is the focus point of all of history as the unfolding of the plan of redemption in Christ Jesus.

And it is brought concretely into consideration in every step of the way of the children of God as they must suffer with Christ. The glory is always one of the points of the believing consideration of the Christian’s comfort. Without this glory all life is simply the vanity of vanities; there is no profit for those who live under the sun. Hence, the considera­tion of this glory is all-important for our Christian comfort. It is highly doctrinal and at once intensely practical! The practical and the doctrinal are not antipoles. To have the practical without the doctrinal is like unto a ship without rudder and compass; it sim­ply means that we go and act, but we know not whi­ther we are bound. Hence, all talk about the practical in distinction from the doctrinal is a very subtle lie of Satan. We need sound doctrine lest we become sick with sin. We need the pure teaching concerning the “glory with Christ” lest we despair because of “suf­fering of this present age”, sometimes called “this life”.

Well, if such be the case, then let us pick up the loins of our mind and be sober. Let us by the Spirit that dwells in us give heed to the focus point of all history, the Spirit’s own goal in all things. For the Spirit always seals unto that day, and leads all of the redeemed creation to the final glory to be revealed in the children of God. Or to say it more exactly: to the final glory to be revealed in us.

Ah, we do not really stand in death and the grave with a stark and horrible future before us. There is condemnation in nothing. Nay, not even in death and the grave. We stand together with the whole of crea­tion as we break forth from the womb of God’s coun­sel some first fruits of God’s creation. Our pains are the travail of the birth by water and the Spirit. Birth pains our groanings are. Life breaking forth and conquering death. The dawn of the new day is in all of creation.

There is a threefold groaning spoken of in this section.

First there is the groaning of “the creature it­self”. Of this we shall write more in later articles.

Secondly there is the groaning of us who have the “first fruits of the Spirit”. This is the groan of waiting for the redemption of our bodies, the final manifestation of our adoption to sons.

Thirdly, there is the groaning of the Spirit of Christ, our high priest as He intercedes for us, the Church. This is a groaning which cannot be uttered. And yet it is a prayer which the searcher of the hearts knows and answers.

In all of these three distinct groanings, in creation in us who have the first fruits of the Spirit, and of the Holy Spirit Himself there is the panting, longing expectation of the final glory of God’s grace in us the redeemed Church.

Hence, this glory is constantly taken up in all be­lieving reckoning of the meaning and purpose of the suffering of this present time; of the meaning of the suffering of God’s children.

And the result: it, suffering, is not worthy to be compared. It does not even fall in the same class with it. It really sinks away into nothing as soon as the comparison is made. And, O glory, thus it registers too in the believing consciousness of the saints.

Such is the general implication of the verses 18-27.

All things look toward the focus point; the glory of the saints!

But there is more!

We too know that all things work together for good to those who love God!

This “good” is certainly the “glory of God to be revealed in us”. It is the “good” as it has been established by God Himself in His eternal decree and purpose in the counsel of peace and redemption. When that point of time comes; when the glory shall be revealed in us then God will be once more resting from His labors and saying: it is good. Thus God spoke in the end of the creation week. And thus God shall speak when the end of the weary toil of this pre­sent time shall be over and all things be made perfect­ly new; then shall God say: it is “very good”!

Now we know something very definite concerning all things. It is: that all things in this present time of “sin and grace” work together for good to them that love God!

And what a knowledge this is!

It is the knowledge that takes believing cogni­zance of all the facts of life and death, things present and things future, sickness, peril and sword. It closes its eyes to nothing. All of these things work together for the final glory of the saints, to the glory, the “good” of those who love God.

Who are they who love God?

By nature there is no one that loves God. By nature we are prone to hate God and our neighbor. And, therefore, it is so very true what John says: “Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” He who loves God is one who is called efficaciously by the Word and Spirit from darkness into God’s mar­velous light.

But all things do not work together for our good because we love God. Our love is not the reason, it is that which constitutes us the objects (sovereignly constituted) for the good of whom all things work. It is an indication that we have been called according to the purpose. It is in no sense a condition that we fulfill, but rather it is the mercy of God to us in­dicating that we are the called according to his eternal purpose in Christ Jesus. Not they who love God are in the ultimate sense the called according to the pur­pose, but the called according to the purpose are those who love. That is the text, and such is the Reformed position.

Such called according to God’s purpose, lovers of God, are also the justified ones from sin and death. Theirs is the right to the future glory. And by faith we press our claim for it. And we know that being justified we shall also be glorified.

The focus point of all history is woven into the very warp and woof of the soteriological dealings of God with His children.

Every eye in hope is directed upon it!

G. Lubbers