The Daily Word Problems

Due to problems with my mail list, I’m switching over The Daily Word to a new administration system. Thank you for your patience as I work this bug out of the system.


The Salvation of Creation (Romans 8.18-21)

Life is difficult, but if you believe in Jesus Christ, its difficulty can be borne through hope.

In Romans 8.18-39, the Apostle Paul outlines a theology of Christian optimism. It is not a Panglossian declaration that this is the best of all possible worlds. Rather, the present form of the worldâ..marred as it is by sin and deathâ the antithesis of what God created it to be. It needs to be saved. And thatâ..s precisely what God is doing. Heâ..s saving the world. Christians are optimists, then, not because of what the world is, but because of who God is and what heâ..s doing to recreate Paradise on earth.

Now, some Christians labor under the misapprehension that salvation is a merely personal thing. When I say that God is saving the world, they assume Iâ..m talking about the world of human individuals. But Iâ..m not. According to the theology of Christian optimism, salvation isnâ..t merely individual; itâ..s cosmic in scope. The recreation of Paradise on earth begins with humans, but it doesnâ..t end with them.

If you donâ..t believe me, consider what Paul writes in Romans 8.18-21:

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

In this passage, Paul differentiates between the world of human individuals and the world of creation. Then, he goes on to make three statements about the world of creation:

First, its salvation follows hard on the heels of the salvation of humanity. It â..waits in eager expectationâ. for â..the sons of God to be revealed.â. This revelation refers to the resurrection of our bodies and the eternity weâ..ll spend in Godâ..s presence.

Second, in the meantime, the creation experiences â..frustration.â. Frustration always arises because of the vast difference between what we want and what we actually have. The creation longs to be, once again, the Paradise of God, but it the meantime, it suffers patiently.

Third, when God fully saves us by raising our bodies to eternal life in his presence, creation itself will be fully re-created. It â..will be liberated from its bondage to decayâ. and it will experience â..the glorious freedom of the children of God.â. Our resurrected bodies will live on a resurrected earth.

In 1901, Maltbie Babcock penned a hymn that beautifully expresses the theology of Christian optimism. Iâ..ll conclude with its words:

This is my Fatherâ..s world.
O let me neâ forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.

This is my Fatherâ..s world:
the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heavâ..n be one.

Slaves or Sons? (Romans 8.12-17)

In Romans 8.5-11, Paul contrasts two kinds of people: fleshly and spiritual. He continues the contrast in Romans 8.12-17, using a different metaphor: slaves and sons. What does it mean to be a son (or daughter) of God?Â

According to verses 12-14, fleshly people are slaves and spiritual people are Godâ..s children:Â

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligationâ..but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.Â

Whenever you see the word therefore in Scripture, ask what itâ..s there for. In verse 12, it connects the ideas of verses 1-11 with those of verses 12-17. According to verses 1-11, Christ died and rose again so that neither the law could condemn nor sin contaminate you. Through faith in him, you receive the Holy Spirit, who makes possible your spiritual and moral transformation. So, to be a son or a daughter of God first of all means that Christ and the Holy Spirit are â you,â. as verses 9-10 put it, restoring you to a right relationship with God and with others. But what does that right relationship with God look like? Listen to verses 15-17

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirsâ..heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. If you are a child of God, you can approach God with familiarity, not fear. Thatâ..s what it means to call God â..Abba, Father.â. Several years ago, I was in Jerusalem waiting in line for an elevator with a young Jewish boy and his father. Growing impatient, the little boy said, â..Abba, when is the elevator coming?â. When I heard him say this, I finally realized what it means to call God â..Abba.â. It means to approach him with intimacy, trust, and affection on matters great and small, just as the young Jewish boy had done with his father.

To be a child of God also means that you are â with Christ.â. In a sense, Jesus is Godâ..s natural Son, whereas you and I are his adopted children. But God loves us so much that we are given an equal inheritance with Jesus. What blessings of life and love flow to Jesus will flow to us as well.

Finally, to be a child of God means to â..share in [Christâ..s] sufferings, which only seems fair, given that we will also share in his glory. But more about that next time.