The Glory that will be Revealed (Romans 8:18–30)

This sermon was preached at Catalyst Church San Diego on Sunday, May 12, 2024. Click here to hear the sermon podcast.


Happy Mother's Day. Mothers are amazing. They have an incredible ability to incorporate both beauty and strength in one person. And if you are a mother loving your children selflessly, thank you. Thank you for being an example to your children of beauty and strength. 

Mother's Day is a day to honor our mothers. As we honor them, it's interesting that today, in the book of Romans, we're going to be talking about glory because glory has to do with the honor of someone. We'll be talking today about the glory of God and how good his glory is, both now and forever.

My mother loves the Lord and vegan food. She is on a short list of people who can get me to eat tofu. My mother loves her family and wants us to eat well. She loves to tell me about the health benefits of a vegan lifestyle. Unfortunately, meat still calls my name.

My mother wants me to eat in a pure, healthy way. Similarly, it strikes me that God calls his people to live pure and holy lives. God is working all things together so we can look more like him. 

What does that look like? We'll see that today in Romans 8:18-30.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved, but hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience. In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified." Romans 8:18–30 CSB

In Romans 8:18-30, Paul takes us on this journey from past to the present and from the present to glory.

From the Present to Glory

This text revolves around the idea of glory. It starts with Romans 8:18, where he says, "The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us." In Romans 8:21, he describes "the glorious freedom of God's children." Then, in Romans 8:30, he ends this section by saying, "And those he justified, he also glorified." What is he getting at here?

The term "glory" in the New Testament is an intriguing word. The writers of the New Testament reinterpret this word into a theological context. The Greek word is the word dóxa. In Greek philosophy, this word meant that someone had a good reputation. If someone had dóxa, they were of good repute.

But the biblical writers reinterpret this word in a Hebrew context. So when we see the word "glory" in the New Testament, it's more closely aligned with the Hebrew word kāḇôḏ. In the Old Testament, when they spoke of God's glory, they spoke of God's kāḇôḏ. When the ancient writers translated the Hebrew into Greek in the Septuagint, it went from the Hebrew word kāḇôḏ to the Greek word dóxa. The Greek word dóxa is the word that we see, for instance, in verse 18, where he speaks of the dóxa or glory that will be revealed to us. 

The Hebrew word kāḇôḏ is weighty, giving it importance. The kāḇôḏ of someone can refer to their honor or dignity. But about God, when we speak about the kāḇôḏ or the dóxa or the glory of God, we are talking about the reality of his presence. The presence of God is pure, powerful, and full of splendor. The reality of his presence is that he is the supreme authority and ruler over all creation. In him is light, beauty, and splendor. And when we think of the heaviness of who he is and the radiance, beauty, light, and splendor of who God is, we are in reverence and awe of his glory.

Glory in Romans

In his letter to the Romans, Paul takes us on a journey of unpacking the dóxa, or God's glory. He tells us in Romans 3:23 that we all fall short of God's glory. We all fall short of his splendor, majesty, and holiness. We all fall short of who he is. 

But that in and of itself, if you think about it, what is he saying? He's saying all of collective humanity, all of our achievements, all of the things that we produce, the things that we strive for, the things that we collect together, all of it, it all falls short of God's perfection, God's holiness, God's splendor, God's glory. 

That in and of itself is wonderful because it says that if you sense in your life that you're reaching out and feel like there must be something more, that this life is missing something, you're on the right track. Since we all fall short of God's glory, there is something greater beyond ourselves. There is something more that we are reaching for and seeking.

He takes us from Romans 3:23 to Romans 5:2. As Paul has unpacked how we have fallen short of the glory of God, we get to Romans 5:2, where he says, "We boast in the hope of the glory of God."

So follow what he's been saying here. He says that we fall short of the glory of God, that there's something greater than us, and that all of humanity's collective potential is nothing compared to the greatness and glory of God. 

Therefore, we are reaching out as Christians. We are seeking him, and we boast that our hope is not in ourselves but in the glory of God. We boast that there is someone greater than us. 

And if you feel like you keep falling short and there must be something more, we agree with you. We say that there is someone greater than us. There is someone more significant than the mistakes you've made in your past. There is someone greater than all your achievements. There is someone greater, more beautiful, more powerful, more splendid. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 

And that gets us to verse 18. Since we can boast in the hope of the glory of God, he says this in Romans 8:18, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us." Everything I'm dealing with right now—all the afflictions, pain, suffering—may be rough, but it's temporary. We are in a temporary moment, and a beautiful future is ahead for God's children. None of the stress of this moment compares to the glory that awaits us in Christ.

Creation Awaits Redemption

As he describes the coming glory, he takes us through a history lesson about creation, specifically the impact of sin on creation. In Genesis 3, Adam sinned against God. That sin impacted not only himself but also the world around him. In Genesis 3:17-19,

"And he said to the man, 'Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’: The ground is cursed because of you. You will eat from it by means of painful labor all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. You will eat bread by the sweat of your brow until you return to the ground, since you were taken from it. For you are dust, and you will return to dust.'” Genesis 3:17–19 CSB

When sin entered the world, it had an explosive effect on more than humanity. It also affected the rest of God's earthly creation. Remember that God gave humanity dominion and authority over creation. So, the curse did not only affect man but also the creation around him.

We currently live in a creation that is groaning, that is under the weight of man's sin, waiting for God to redeem. God's redemption is a glorious thing. It comes as a result of his glory. 

In 2 Peter 3:10–13, Peter writes what will happen to this present creation. He says,

"But the day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for the day of God and hasten its coming. Because of that day, the heavens will be dissolved with fire and the elements will melt with heat. But based on his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness dwells." 2 Peter 3:10–13 CSB

We live in a temporary time. There will be a day when everything around us will be dissolved by fire. God will redeem his creation through a new heaven and a new Earth. The Book of Revelation also tells us that God will restore creation through a new heaven and a new earth. Everything around us is temporary. The present moment and its sufferings don't compare to what God has in store. God will redeem creation according to his glory.

The Spirit as the First Fruits

He moves us out of this section on creation and gets us into the present moment that we have as Christians as people under submission to the Holy Spirit in our lives. He says in Romans 8:23, "we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits." What does he mean by first fruits? What is he talking about here? 

You have to understand this according to the Hebrew mindset. In ancient Israel, if you were a Hebrew living then, you would present the first part of your crops, which were the best part, to the priests as an offering. You did this because the first fruits are a gift from God. They were considered holy, and they belonged to the Lord. Numbers 18 talks about the first fruit offerings.

When the Israelites presented their first fruits to the Lord, they were saying, "God, your gifts are incredible. You have given these first fruits to us as a sign that there is more to come." God has given us the first fruits; we know more will come.

So Paul, when he uses this Hebrew language in verse 23, what is he saying about God? He says God has given his children the Holy Spirit, a type of first fruits in our lives. The first fruits of the Holy Spirit guarantee Christians that there is more to come. His Spirit abides with us, keeps us, and shows us that God's glory is yet to be revealed.

Second Corinthians 5:1–-5 sounds much like Romans 8 as he describes a groaning within our bodies and the Holy Spirit as a down payment. He says,

"For we know that if our earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal dwelling in the heavens, not made with hands. Indeed, we groan in this tent, desiring to put on our heavenly dwelling, since, when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. Indeed, we groan while we are in this tent, burdened as we are, because we do not want to be unclothed but clothed, so that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment." 2 Corinthians 5:1–5 CSB

Like Romans 8, you have this picture of a down payment or the first fruits from God coming in the Holy Spirit, showing us that we are his children, that he abides with us, that his power is with us always, and that we will behold his glory.

Christian, there is a future coming. He says at the end of verse 23. Now, we've grown within ourselves, eagerly awaiting adoption—the redemption of our bodies. And we are eagerly awaiting our redemption. Creation is waiting to be redeemed. Our bodies are waiting to be redeemed. And s Christians, we have tremendous hope for our future.

Our Tremendous Hope

What is hope? Hope isn't about what you have right now but what is coming ahead of you. We hope for things we don't see today. Paul says in Romans 8:24, "hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?" And in verse 25 we eagerly await the hope of our future with patience. Hope takes patience.

Humanity needs hope. Now, why is that? People recognize that there must be something better. We constantly see this need for hope in humans.

Our country has seen many recent protests on our college campuses. What is undergirding all of the protests? At the core, they show a groaning within humanity. It says that something terrible is happening. There is a recognition that something is wrong, and there is a desire, a hope for something better.

People need hope. We have a desire and a hope for something better for the Palestinians. We have a desire and a hope for something better for the Jews. We have a desire and a hope for something better for all of us.

However, the hope that the world needs is not another political process. The best that the world can do is some external semblance of peace. The real peace process that the world needs must happen in the human heart and soul. Eternal peace is only available through the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, our Lord. We live in a world desperately needing peace, and his name is Jesus.

Hope involves belief in things that we don't see yet. In the Gospel of John, we hear the story of Thomas, who said he wouldn't believe that Jesus had resurrected from the dead unless he had seen the marks of the nail scars on his hand and had put his finger on his side. Jesus appears to Thomas, saying, "Look at my hands; reach out your hand and put it on my side. Don't be faithless, but believe." Thomas responds by saying, "My Lord and my God." And then Jesus responds and says this in John 20:29, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." Brothers and sisters, there is hope in Jesus. It's a hope we don't see right now, but it's real and sure. And the hope we have in Jesus Christ, our faith, is a blessing in your life.

The Holy Spirit and Prayer

In Romans 8:26, Paul describes the Holy Spirit in our lives as he has been doing. But there's something significant here. Underneath verse 26, there is an assumption that the Christian is a praying person and that the church, the gathering of God's people, is a praying people. As praying people, he says that the Holy Spirit "helps us in our weakness."

What is he referring to in our weakness? Remember how he described in verse 23 that we are groaning within ourselves and waiting for the redemption of our bodies. As we live today in this flesh, we live in a weak and hurting flesh. We fall short of his glory. 

But God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide his people through the Spirit and intercede on our behalf. The Holy Spirit takes the praying people of God and speaks for them. He speaks for us because we don't know what to pray for. Think of the disciples who go to Jesus and say, "Jesus, teach us how to pray." They say that because they realize that there is a weakness within themselves. We know that God has called us to pray. But what do we say? What do we say to someone holy and perfect and pure?

Yet the Spirit testifies with our Spirit that we are his children. And God wants his children to come to him. He loves his children, and he intercedes on our behalf. 

It says in verse 27 that God searches our hearts and intercedes on our behalf. God knows what's in your heart. He knows the things that you struggle with. God knows your pains. He knows the suffering that you're going through in this present moment. He knows you've been trying every day, but you still struggle. You know you should pray, but you don't know how. God calls us to come to him. And he knows our hearts. He knows the things we need, and he connects with us in our lives as we are people who pray.

For the Good

In one of the most famous verses in Romans, Romans 8:28, Paul says, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Connecting the Christian's prayer life to the Holy Spirit interceding on our behalf, he says God is making all things in our lives work together for our good, for those called and who love God. 

We love this verse. We love that God is working all things together for good. And often, we want to stop there. Why is that? We want to be the ones who define what good is. You know, "Right now, I'm struggling. I don't have enough money, but you know what? All things will come together because, after all, I need a car. Eventually, at the end of this, he will work all things together for the good." Or I'm in this relationship, and she's not interested in me, but I like her. And, you know, somehow, all these things will come together and work for the good.

Time and time again, we want to define what the good is. But the only good that matters is the good that God gives because God is good. And if you look at the context of verse 28, you will see that he describes what that good is. 

Why is God working all things together for the good? What is the purpose that he has called us to? He describes God's purpose in Romans 8:29, "For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son." God is working everything together in your life, including all the sufferings and things you're going through; through prayer and the intercession of the Spirit, God is working out a process. What is God working out? He's working out within us the good of being conformed to the image of his Son.

God is molding and shaping you to look more and more like Jesus, which is the greatest good! In everything that we're going through, everything around us is working together for our good so that we can look more like Christ. 

God predestined that purpose according to his wisdom and power. He saw a people of faith, a people of faith that he would draw to himself. God saw people who would look more and more like him, people who would yearn for him more every day, people he has created to be conformed to the image of his Son, the image of his perfection, the image of his purity, the image of his holiness. 

God is calling a people to come to him in faith, people who will be obedient and live holy and pure lives before him. He saw a people who would live according to his calling to be more like his Son—a people predestined, called, justified, and glorified—a people called and brought to the Lamb of God.

Paul describes Jesus in verse 29 as "the firstborn among many brothers." The term "firstborn" does not refer to God creating something. Jesus Christ is eternal. He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. He always was. He always will be. He's the beginning and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. As John says in John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Jesus Christ is eternal. 

So why is Paul calling him the firstborn? He's not calling him firstborn in terms of creation. He's calling him firstborn in terms of position. The Hebrew mindset would remember the term firstborn as the heir. The firstborn is the one with the first rights. He is the heir, the one to whom everything is being handed over.

In Colossians 1:15–20, Paul writes,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." Colossians 1:15–20 CSB

Jesus said in John 17 that he wants his church to be with him because he wants them to see his glory. The Lord rules over all creation, is before all things, is the head of the church, and has reconciled everything to himself. 

If you are in Christ today, whatever you're going through today doesn't compare to the glory God will reveal in Christ. We serve the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is before all things and above all things. 

Christian, we should live today as people being conformed to the image of the Son of God and eagerly anticipate seeing his glory.