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Groan, Groans, and Groaning

Life is full of pain, suffering and death. Each of us has our share of heartaches and hurts. Sometimes we groan under the load of suffering. In my daily ministry I see hundreds of poor people facing pain, poverty and suffering in Latin America.

The word for groaning is found only six times in the New Testament. In Romans 8:22, 23, 26 the word stenazo and its variants refer to three different things: creation groans (vv. 18-22), believers groan (vv. 23-25), and the Holy Spirit groans (vv. 25-30).

The apostle Paul tells us that creation groans (Romans 8:18-22). He is referring to the “non-rational creation, animate and inanimate.” Angels are not included because they were not subjected to the bondage of corruption. Satan and his demons are not included because they will not share in the freedom of glory of the children of God. The children of God are distinguished from the creation in vv. 19-23. The unbelievers are not included because they are not characterized by an earnest expectation of hope in the coming of Christ. Rational creation is excluded in this passage. Paul tells us the “non-rational creation, animate and inanimate” creation “waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God” (v. 19). It “groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now” (v. 22).

Why does it groan like a mother dilating at childbirth? Verse 21 tells us it longs to be “set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Creation, the cosmos, is looking beyond itself to the “glorious freedom of the children of God.”

It longs to be liberated from the curse God placed upon it in the garden when Adam sinned (Gen. 3:17-18). “Cursed is the ground because of you.” Creation will one day be delivered by the Redeemer. When the Christians are fully redeemed, resurrected in glory, the cosmos will likewise be fully redeemed.

Creation groans, but one day it will become a glorious creation. Today it groans in pain and suffering, decay and vanity. The pain will end when the child is delivered. This groaning creation looks forward to the day it will be set free. The day is coming when the cosmos will be renewed (Isa. 11:6-9; 2 Pet. 3:13). The promise was given in the garden (Gen. 3:15).

Creation will share in the glory that will be bestowed upon the children of God. “The entire creation, as it were, sets up a grand symphony of sighs” (Phillips).

Not only does the cosmos groan, but also the children of God are described as groaning (vv. 23-25). We have already been adopted, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are the “sons of God,” have the witness of the Holy Spirit, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, etc. It may seem odd that the believer groans when God has done so much to save us. We groan because we have experienced “the first fruits of the Spirit” which is a foretaste of the glory to come. We have already tasted the blessings of heaven and the age to come so we long for the full manifestation of the kingdom of God. We groan to be under the full control of the Holy Spirit with resurrected bodies. The Holy Spirit anticipates that final salvation. He is the pledge, the guarantee, the down payment that we who have the Spirit shall in the end be saved. We who have Him indwelling anxiously await that glorious day with full expectation. The final delivery is guaranteed by His indwelling presence. When Jesus Christ returns we shall enter into our full inheritance with Christ. We are saved by “that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:24; Titus 2:13).

We groan in suffering and pain now, but when Jesus appears we will enjoy eternal glory with Him.

The apostle Paul tells us the Holy Spirit groans, too (vv. 25-30). Jesus groaned when He saw the effect of sin and unbelief on people (John 11:33, 38; Mk. 7:34). Today our Paraclete, Comforter, or divine Helper feels the pain of our sin and groans over us when we sin. He “helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words, and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (vv. 26-27).

The Holy Spirit prays for us in His groanings so that we will please God. We do not know the will of God, but He does because He is God. He prays for us in His groanings interceding so that we will do the will of God in spite of our suffering. He reminds us that regardless of what we experience here temporarily it is nothing in comparison to “the glory that is to be revealed to us” when Christ comes.

God pledges that we will rise from the dead. Our deep sorrow will be turned to great rejoicing. The end will not be the survival of the immortal soul, but the resurrection of the body, equipped for heaven and eternity.  

Selah!

Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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