Whole Life Whole Bible Day 46
Romans 8:18 (NASB)
18 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.
Romans 8:21-24 (NASB)
21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23 And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24 For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?
45: Living between the times
This passage is one of many in which Paul expresses the tension between how things are now and how they will be one day. That tension, which is part and parcel of everyday discipleship, is bound up with the biblical storyline — that which is promised under the old covenant receives a measure of fulfillment in Jesus and the church, but still awaits future consummation.
Jesus announces the arrival and presence of God’s reign in his ministry and demonstrates its power in mighty works that bring restoration and renewal. Yet he also calls on his disciples to pray, ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10) and to watch and wait for the complete exercise of God’s rule in the future. Rightly it has been said that we live in the period between the decisive battle and the definitive victory.
For Paul, too, there is an ‘already’ and a ‘not yet’ aspect to Christian experience. The new age has broken into the present age, so that we enjoy ‘the firstfruits of the Spirit’ while awaiting the full harvest. Indeed, the current experience of birth pains will give way to eventual relief. Perhaps reminiscent of the portrayal in Exodus 2:23–24 of the Israelites ‘groaning’ under their Egyptian slavery, Paul depicts salvation as a release from bondage, applying the imagery not just to men and women but to the entire created order. This is yet one more reminder of the comprehensive scope of God’s work in Christ, where such liberation is not simply ‘internal’ or ‘spiritual’, but the ‘redemption of our bodies’ and of creation itself.
In this time between the times, we are called to witness to the ends of the earth. That mission — in keeping with what will be — is all-embracing, as we make known God’s rule over the whole of life, announcing it with our lips as well as embodying it in our lives. Seeking to avoid both defeatism (claiming too little) and triumphalism (claiming too much), we can testify to the wide-ranging sweep of God’s renewing power in politics and parenting, in economics and education, in art and athletics — being realistic about current ‘bondage’ but all the while looking forward to the complete restoration of what was originally declared ‘good’.
Such is our confidence and expectation — our hope — a hope of the full disclosure of God’s reign that shapes each of us in the here and now.
For further reflection and action
In line with the reference to ‘the firstfruits of the Spirit’ in Romans 8:23, reflect further on Ephesians 1:13–14 and 2 Corinthians 5:5, where Paul calls the Spirit a ‘deposit’ that guarantees our future inheritance. In what ways is our present experience of the Spirit a foretaste of the future?
If you’re able to do so, pause every so often through the day to think about how the tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ works itself out in your daily life.
To the Corinthians who think they have everything now, Paul emphasizes that complete salvation lies in the future, at the resurrection — because he wants to downplay their triumphalism. In Colossians and Ephesians, on the other hand, he emphasizes the present salvation we enjoy — already seated with Christ in heavenly places. What are the dangers in thinking that we have received everything now? What are the dangers of downplaying what we have already received? Which end of the tension do you gravitate towards, and why? As a particular case, what does the tension between the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ have to teach us about our hopes and expectations for healing?
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.