June 28, 2015
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
In the name of + Jesus.
For I consider that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy compared to the glory that is about to be revealed to us. For the creation’s eager expectation is that it eagerly waits for the revelation of the sons of God. (v 18-19). St. Paul reminds us Christians that the present time is not the best that God has to offer. There is a glory that is yet to be revealed. For now, though, the glory of God is a reality hidden under suffering.
And that doesn’t sit well with us. We are by nature and impatient lot. We expect God to manifest His glory right here, right now. Like the disciples, we are constantly wondering, Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel? (Acts 1:6).
But the kingdom of God is not something to be found in palaces or parliaments. It’s not found among a panel of appointed judges or a bipolar legislature. It’s not found in the movements of societies or in the various cultures of the world. The kingdom of God does not come with observation, Jesus says. Neither will they say, “Look, here it is!” or, “Look there it is!” for the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20b-21).
The kingdom of God isn’t measured in externals. It is God’s glory hidden under suffering, because God’s way is to hide His glory under suffering. That’s the cross. Outwardly it appeared that a common criminal was being beaten, mocked, and crucified for the world to see. But hidden under the suffering of the cross was the Son of God atoning for the sins of the world. And so the same is true for all sons of God.
For the creation is subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of the One who subjected it—on the hope that creation itself will be released from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (vv 21-22). Outward appearances give the impression that the kingdom of God is on the losing end of history. But outward appearances don’t always tell the whole story. When Jesus ascended to heaven, His disciples asked Him if He would be establishing His kingdom in Israel. But Jesus had one better. He ascended into heaven to put all things under His feet. He is the all-powerful sovereign King of creation, but He doesn’t necessarily rule the way that we would expect Him too.
He subjects all creation to futility. What does that mean? It means that despite the fact that the Supreme Court can judge the Law of God concerning marriage to be an outdated and antiquated remnant of regressive society, ultimately this act of rebellion must serve His glory. This is natural law, as St. Paul explains in the first chapter of Romans:
God in heaven shows He is angry at all the ungodliness and wickedness of people who by their wickedness hold back the truth. What can be known about God is clear to them because God has made it clear to them. Ever since He made the world, they have seen the unseen things of God — from the things He made they can tell He has everlasting power and is God. Then they have no excuse. They knew God and didn’t honor Him as God or thank Him, but their thoughts turned to worthless things, and their ignorant hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they showed how foolish they are when for the glory of God, who cannot die, they substituted images of man, who dies, and of birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
And so God, letting them follow the lusts of their hearts, gave them up to live immorally and dishonor their bodies because they traded the true God for a lie, worshiped and served what was created instead of the Creator, Who is blessed forever. Amen! That is why God gave them up to shameful lusts. Women have changed their natural way to an unnatural one. And men likewise have given up the natural relation with a woman and burned with lust for one another, men doing shameful acts with men and for their error getting punished in themselves as they must. As they refused to know God any longer, God gave them up so that their minds were degraded and they lived immorally. Their lives are full of all kinds of wrongdoing, wickedness, greed, malice. They are full of envy, murder, quarreling, treachery, viciousness. They gossip and slander. They hate God. They are insulting, proud, boasting. They invent new evils. They disobey parents. They are foolish. They break their promises. They have no love or mercy. Knowing God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve when others do them (Rom 1:18-32 AAT).
Some people will say that the Supreme Court decision from this past week should get God’s judgment. But, according to St. Paul, it is God’s judgment. He turns the sinful over to their sin. Incidentally, notice that it’s not just homosexual acts, but also envy, murder, quarreling, gossip, and slander. If you refuse to hear God’s judgment on sin, His judgment is to turn you over to your sin. But this is His alien work. It is not God’s nature to judge or to increase sin, but He only does this for the sake of the work that is proper to His nature. His judgment is to turn us to repentance. His judgment is so that we would remove the logs from our own eyes, so that we can see clearly how the specks in other eyes can be removed–not by wailing and moaning and saying, “Woe is me, the sky is falling,” not by lashing out at the enemies of God with hate, but to point them to the same repentance, to the two beams of wood that really matter. The cross of Christ. This is our message.
There is a reason why God subjects this creation to futility, and that is to show the slavery of our corruption. That’s the sad irony of the Supreme Court ruling: it was done in the name of freedom and equality, but it is a return to slavery—slavery to the corrupted lusts of the body.
But this judgment, this subjection to futility, isn’t because we have a cruel or capricious God. It’s for the sake of a true freedom that is yet to come. It’s a freedom that exceeds the freedoms of the United States Bill of Rights. It’s a freedom that is more liberating that post-modern autonomy. The freedom that is the glory of the children of God is the freedom that comes with a resurrection from the dead. It’s a freedom to live and move and breathe and find our being in God’s creation as He created it to be. It’s the freedom to be the creature and He the Creator. It’s a freedom given shape by the law of love—not a wishy-washy emotionalism, but a charity that sacrifices self for the sake of neighbor.
To see what this freedom looks like, look to Christ. He is risen from the dead and death no longer has mastery over Him. He is alive in the flesh, yet that flesh does not control Him. This is the hope that we have, the hope for all of creation.
Because it’s not just we who hope to be renewed. For we know that all creation groans together and agonizes together until the present. Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting on adoption, the redemption of our bodies (vv 22-23).
All of creation groans together, like a woman giving birth to a child. The life is hidden in mother’s womb, though it’s clear that soon that new life will be revealed. So also, the present sufferings are simply labor pains of the new creation. It’s necessary for the life that we now have hidden in Christ to be revealed. It’s necessary for our redemption.
In St. Paul’s usage, redemption is a synonym for resurrection. The redemption of our bodies is what will happen on the last day. It’s the hope we have, our eager expectation. Our lives are now hidden with Christ, for we have died with Him. But the final revelation will happen on the Last Day, when Christ returns, and our bodies are raised imperishable, incorruptible, and with the glory of Christ Himself. The Bridegroom will be united with His Bride and not even them shall part.
In the name of + Jesus.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard