Yesterday, we thought about Paul’s description of the groaning of creation. Now he mentions a second groaning that is connected to the groaning of creation, and that is the groaning of believers. As usual, Paul can say a lot in a few words, so what we can discover about this groaning that should mark every Christian.
First, it is an optimistic groaning connected to hope. It is possible for us to have a negative groaning connected to failure or to the power of sin. But that is not the type of groaning Paul mentions here. Instead the groaning that Paul describes is a powerful longing for a better world in which the effects of sin will be gone. Every day we see numerous reasons why this inner aspiration should be strong. Sadly, some Christians are more excited about the next development in their career or in the latest car or computer than they are about the coming world of glory.
Second, we are waiting eagerly for the completion of our adoption. Adoption begins when we believe in Jesus and become members of the family of God. It is obviously a status, but Paul’s reference here is a reminder that adoption is also an experience that includes bodily transformation when Jesus returns. On that day all believers will be transformed into his likeness. This is a very important reason for having a biblical outlook that includes our bodies.
Third, this optimistic groaning is connected to having the firstfruits of the Spirit. The idea of firstfruits comes from the practice of presenting a sample of the future harvest to God in worship. Therefore, firstfruits points both to a sample and to a greater amount. Christians receive the Spirit when they are converted, but they don’t receive everything that he wants them to have. He wants them to have more joy, more peace, more love that they can have now even although they are regenerated. Having the Spirit already causes us to anticipate the experience of fullness that we will have on that wonderful future day when Jesus returns.
Fourth, those who grasp the significance of this wonderful privilege are marked by patience in the sense that they can cope with the problems of the present because they know that they have a wonderful future. The glory of the inheritance and the guaranteed experience of transformation create a certainty of longing that takes them through life with eager expectation. It affects everything that they face in life and gives strength for it all. This attitude is not escapism; rather it is expectancy.