Romans 8:18-30


We noted in our previous session that Romans 8 is the most complete description in the Bible of life controlled by the Spirit of God.  In this chapter the Greek word for spirit (pneuma) is used more than in any other single chapter in the writings of Paul.  Romans 8 answers the question, “What does a life controlled by the Spirit of God look like?”  In this great chapter, the Scripture tells us that a life controlled by God’s Spirit is a life characterized by:

  • Freedom from condemnation (vv. 1-11)
  • Freedom from rejection (vv. 12-17)
  • Freedom from despair (vv.18-30)
  • Freedom from defeat (vv.31-39)


We focused in our previous session on our freedom from condemnation, the key verse being Romans 8:1 – “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  We also focused on our freedom from rejection, the key verse being Romans 8:15 – “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’”  In this session we will focus on the third major section of Romans 8 – our freedom from despair.


Freedom from Despair (vv.18-30)

According to the Encarta World English Dictionary the word despair means “a profound sense of hopelessness...” Actually, our word despair comes from a Latin word, which literally means “to stop hoping...” The opposite of despair is hope.  Hope is a key biblical concept.  One person calculated there are 136 references to hope in the Bible.  Romans 8:18-30 is a beautiful description of the hope we have in Christ. 


Verse 18 is a great statement of the hope that we have for the future.  One thing you can say about Paul is that he was no pessimist.  Paul would never have agreed with H.G. Wells who once said, “Man, who began in a cave behind a windbreak, will end in the diseased soaked ruins of a slum.”  Paul had a much higher, much more positive view of the future than that. 

      Romans 8:18 has to be one of the most hopeful, positive, optimistic verses in the Bible.  ”For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  We need to read that verse in light of Paul’s personal experience.  It was not written by someone who sailed through life with no trouble or pain.  Paul—

·         Had experienced tremendous hardships and persecutions because of his loyalty to Christ...

·         Had been abandoned by many of his former friends...

·         Even as wrote these words, was preparing to embark on a journey to Jerusalem that would endanger his life and result in his arrest...

Here is someone in the midst of the battle and who carried the bruises and scars to prove it, saying, “As difficult as thing may appear today, as gloomy as things may seem, there is no reason to despair because before us is a bright, wonderful future.” 

      The hope we have in Christ assures us that no matter what happens to us in the world, no matter what we are called to endure, because of what God has done for us in Christ, ultimately everything is going to be okay.  That does not mean that—

·         Christians do not take seriously the struggles of life in this world...

·         Christians will sail through life with no difficulties...

·         Christians are immune from or exempt from the pain and heartache and frustrations that people often experience in this life...

But it does mean that, as children of God, we need not be crushed or destroyed by any event in life...

      Paul said it so well in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 – “...we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed...”  And that is so because of what Paul says in v.14 – “...knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also...”


Verses 19-27 describe the conditions under which Christians live while they await the fulfillment of Romans 8:18.  Warren Wiersbe points out that these verses describe three groans – the groan of creation (vv.19-22), the groan of believers (vv.23-25), and the groan of the Spirit (vv.26-27).

  • We live in a fallen world (vv.19-22).  The backdrop to these verses in Genesis 3:17-19.  When God created the world, He pronounced it as good.  But as a result of human sin, in some way the habitat of humanity also fell.  Notice the words used to describe the current state of creation:  “futility” (v.20), “slavery” (v.21), “corruption” (v.21), “pains” (v.22).  However, the suffering of creation is not pointless.  Paul compares it to a woman in childbirth.  The suffering will end and there will be a glorious result!
  • We await in hope the fulfillment of our salvation (vv.23-25).  Like creation, believers also groan awaiting the fulfillment of our salvation.  At conversion we were adopted into God’s family and have had a taste of fellowship with Him.  The adoption process is completed at the end of the age when we receive “the redemption of our body” (v.23).  Not until Christ returns do we receive our full inheritance, and for that we eagerly await.  Dr. MacGorman makes an insightful comment about this passage:  “In the beginning God…” (Genesis 1:1) :  this is the biblical teaching on creation.  In the end God, too:  this is  the biblical teaching on the events of the end time or eschatology.  God is moving through history to the ultimate triumph of His redemption plan in Jesus Christ … The last authoritative word to be spoken in the consummation of Project Humanity will not emanate form the council chambers of ruling nations but from God.  The only future there is, is God’s future.  And those who have been reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ are secure in its prospect.” [LBC, p. 69] 
  • While we await in hope the fulfillment of our salvation, the Spirit of God helps us in prayer (vv.26-27).  These two verses contain some important truths about prayer.  They tell us that:
    • We need help when it comes to prayer.  I find  great encouragement in  the  statement  Paul makes  in the middle part of v.26 - "..for we do  not know how to pray as we should..."  That reminds me that  I am not alone in my struggle to have meaningful prayer life.  That is a universal struggle of the people of  God.  Notice how Paul worded the statement.  “…for we…"  Not you  but we!  He included himself.  Even a Christian as mature as Paul had to admit that he needed help with prayer.
    • One function of the Holy Spirit is to “help” us in prayer.  Notice the phrase in the first part of v. 26 – “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weaknesses…”  The verb translated “helps” is very graphic.  The word is 17 letters long in the Greek!  It is a compound word made up of a word meaning “with” and a word meaning “to take hold of.”  It carries the idea of getting next to another person to pull with that person or share that person’s load.  How does the Holy Spirit help us or share our burden in prayer?  The last  part  of v.26 says "…the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words..."  I like how NEB translates phrase: "Through our inarticulate groans the Spirit himself is pleading for us..."  The idea is that at times we do not have the words to express our innermost feelings.  The best we can do is bow before  God, and offer an inarticulate sigh.  The Holy Spirit takes those wordless prayers  and  intercedes and interprets them before God the Father.  This  kind  of praying was described by James Montgomery with this little poem:

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,

The falling of a tear,

The upward glancing of an eye

When none but God is near.

o   The ultimate purpose of prayer is to bring our wills into conformity with the will of God.  Notice the phrase at the end of verse 27 – “…He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”  And one of reasons we're not very effective in prayer is that we don't pray with that in mind.  More often than not, when we pray we are more intent on telling God what we want than we are in trying to discover what God wants.  [Like little boy Paul Harvey told about on his radio show...saying his evening prayer, went through usual bless mommy and daddy and keep us safe as did every night...but at end tacked on, "And God, please make St. Louis the Capital of Missouri"...mother asked why prayed that...replied, "Because that's what I put on my test today!"]  Sadly, that's how we pray most of the time.  "God please do what I want you to do!"  I want you notice how different that it to the way    Jesus prayed. 

§  When the disciples asked Him teach them to pray, He told them to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be   done..." 

§  When He faced the most agonizing hour of his life He prayed, "If it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done..." 

§  When He was on the cross, His sacrificial work on our behalf nearly complete, his last words according to Luke's Gospel were a prayer of compliance with God's will.  He said, "Father, into Thy hands I commit my spirit.."

We must never forget, the highest form of prayer is simply saying, "Father, I place my life in your hands...not my will, but Thine be done..." 


Verse 28 – Having dealt with our hope for the future in verse 18, Paul now turns to deal more specifically with our hope for the present.  Romans 8:28 one of most amazing statements ever written... "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."...every phrase in that statement is ripe with meaning...look carefully at what it says...


"And we know..." ‑ Not for we hope or wish or pray or desire...but we know!...the word Paul selected for know is significance...means we have seen for ourselves...we have beheld...after close scrutiny,  careful observation we have come to this conclusion...


"God causes..." ‑ Key to entire verse...process described here nothing do blind chance or fate...nor something just mysteriously built into universe...  describing definite, purposeful action of God...


"all things to work together for good..." ‑ Important  see what does not say...not all things are good (we  know better than that!)...not that God takes things that are bad and miraculously transforms them into things that are good...doesn't work that saying God can take any event in life be it good or bad and use it to further His purpose in our lives...and v.29 explains His purpose as making us more like is God’s purpose for all who believe to be “...conformed to the image of His Son...”...that is the good which God can accomplish through any event and any circumstance of life... [This is the only way I know to make sense out of otherwise absurd events in life...I can’t explain why things happen which seem so unfair from our perspective...I don’t know why little children get sick and die...why a healthy adult is blindsided by a serious, potentially fatal illness...why a life is suddenly, unexpectedly snuffed out in a tragic accident...good people sometimes suffer and bad people sometimes prosper...and the only way I know to make sense of such things is to see God working in them to accomplish His larger purpose in the lives of His people—making them more like matter what you must face in life, if ask "How God use  make me more like Jesus?" will find ways He can...]


"to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" ‑ This qualifies promise of verse...not to all God's  Christians...reason rather obvious...can't become  more Christ-like until know Him in first place...only in lives of those who know Christ in personal relationship can God use all events to make them more  like Jesus...


Verses 29-30 describe the salvation experience of believers.  It started in eternity past when God “foreknew” (not predetermined!) who would responds to Him in faith.  For those who respond to Him in faith, God “predestined” that they would become like Jesus.  That process includes being “called…justified…and glorified…”  Warren Wiersbe’s comment on this passage is helpful:  “He predetermined that one day we would be like His Son.  Predestination applies only to saved people.  Nowhere are we taught that God predestines people to be eternally condemned.  If they are condemned, it is because of their refusal to trust Christ.” [Wiersbe, p.94]