Dr. Robert R. Seyda



Verses 23b-25: We have the Spirit as the first part of God’s promise. So we are waiting for God to permanently adopt us His children. I mean, we are ready for our bodies to be made free. We were saved to have this hope. If we can see what we are looking for, that is not really hope. People don’t hope for something they already have. But we are hoping for something we don’t have yet, and we are waiting for it patiently.

Now Paul points out that this flame of hope that burns within the believer’s heart is not wishful thinking, but that God has already made a down payment on the purchase He made through Christ’s death on the cross. The NIV renders it, “the firstfruits of the Spirit.” The Greek word used here is aparchē which Thayer’s Greek Lexicon explains as coming from, “future blessings.” In other words, just like the first apples on the tree or grapes on the vine are not only an example of what is expected but also a small part of what is coming. The same goes for the hope which has been deposited in our hearts and minds through the Holy Spirit. Paul explains this to the Ephesians: “When you believed in Christ, your being in Him was stamped with a seal, the Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the full redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of His glory.1

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul shared this testimony: “For me, Christ is my reason for living, and to die is even better. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I don’t know! I’m torn between the two.2 Later on, he writes: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.3 And in his letter to Timothy Paul says: “There is waiting for me a reward for living right which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who long for His appearing.4 And to Titus Paul sends this admonition: “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearance of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ in all His glory.”5

The hope for a coming salvation was already contained in Jacob’s prayer for his sons when he prayed: “I wait for your deliverance, Adonai.6 Paul found the same expectation among the Colossians: “You are looking forward to the joys of heaven, and have been ever since the Gospel first was preached to you.”7 Also, he told the Thessalonians that the happy hope of salvation was the helmet part of their armor.8 And to Titus Paul wrote: “Turn away from godless living and sinful pleasures and live a good life, a God-fearing life day after day, looking forward to that wonderful time we’ve been expecting, when His glory shall be seen – the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”9

When it came to God’s promise of salvation and assurance of everlasting life, the writer of Hebrews said this: “He has given us both His promise and His oath, two things we can completely count on, for it is impossible for God to tell a lie. This certain hope of being saved is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls, connecting us with God Himself behind the sacred curtains of heaven.10 Even the Apostle Peter expressed his faith this way: “Now we live in the hope of eternal life because Christ rose again from the dead. Because of this, your trust can be in God who raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory. Now your faith and hope can rest in Him alone. 11

Then Paul said to the Roman believers that they must not wait until they see this happen before they believe it is real. They can accept it in hope, even though they haven’t yet seen it come to pass. This was the same message he passed on to the Corinthians: “We do not look at what we can see right now, the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen.”12 In fact, if we wait until we see things before we believe, then there is no need for hope. As he said to the Corinthians: “We know these things are true by believing, not by seeing.”13 This same principle is echoed by the writer of Hebrews: “What is faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead.14

Paul now goes on to tell those in Rome that such hope for things we can’t see gives birth to patience. Such hope certainly inspired David to write: “Put your hope in ADONAI, be strong, and let your heart take courage! Yes, put your hope in ADONAI!15 And in another Psalm, he wrote: “Be still before ADONAI; wait patiently till He comes. Don’t be upset by those whose way succeeds because of their wicked plans.16 And when things got dark and trouble was all around him, David sang: “My soul waits in silence for God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and salvation,
my stronghold; I won’t be greatly moved.

It was with this same scriptural context in mind that Paul was able to tell the frightened Thessalonians: “We never forget your loving deeds as we talk to our God and Father about you, and your strong faith and steady looking forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”18 And in his second letter, Paul prays for this: “May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and of the patience that comes from Christ.”19 But the writer of Hebrews expresses it this way: “Knowing what lies ahead for you, you won’t become bored with being a Christian nor become spiritually dull and indifferent, but you will be anxious to follow the example of those who receive all that God has promised them because of their strong faith and patience.20 The key word here is, “knowing.” That’s why the study of God’s word is so important in establishing faith and developing hope that provides patience.

Along this same line, the author of Hebrews told his readers: “Those whose faith has made them good in God’s sight must live by faith, trusting Him in everything. Otherwise, if they shrink back, God will have no pleasure in them.21 Then later he advises them to strip off anything that slows them down or holds them back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around their feet they trip them up; run with patience the particular race that God has set before them. Keep their eyes on Jesus, the One who initiated, and will bring to completion their hope and faith.22

But with this said, Paul had another point he wanted to make. He proceeds to explain spiritual patience. In our own minds, we too must affirm the difference between patience and tolerance. One definition of tolerance reads: “The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular, the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.” Such tolerance keeps a person from risking an uninformed decision that may end up proving wrong. But the patience Paul is speaking of is based on having the full and complete knowledge that something is going to happen and a willingness to wait for it to take place.

The Apostle James wrote: “Dear brothers, is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete.”23 He goes on to illustrate this: “Dear brothers who are waiting for the Lord’s return, be patient, like a farmer who waits until the autumn for his precious harvest to ripen. Yes, be patient. And take courage, for the coming of the Lord is near.”24 And when the Apostle John sent his seven letters to the churches in Asia Minor, he included this provision: “I, your brother John, a fellow sufferer for the Lord’s sake, who am writing this letter to you. I, too, have shared the patience Jesus gives, and we shall share His Kingdom!25 And later on in John’s Revelation we hear an angel shout: “Let this encourage God’s people to endure patiently every trial and persecution, for they are His saints who remain firm to the end in obedience to His commands and trust in Jesus.”26

Chrysostom weighs in on why Christians continue to groan in spite of the fact that they have the down-payment of the Spirit within them. As he sees it, if the initial blessing of what Christ did to free us from our sins gave us righteousness and sanctification, then just think of how wonderful the whole inheritance must be. With that being said, if all of nature in creation, as devoid as it is of a mind and reason and, therefore, ignorant of these things we know, nevertheless groans for liberation, how much more should we groan as well. Chrysostom also has no comfort for the doubters, heretics, or agnostics. He advises them that believers do not groan down here because their life is so miserable. Rather, its because they have something far better to look forward to up there.27

1 Ephesians 1:13-14

2 Philippians 1:21-23a

3 Ibid. 3:20-21

4 2 Timothy 4:8

5 Titus 2:11-13

6 Genesis 49:18 – Complete Jewish Bible

7 Colossians 1:5

8 1Thessalonians 5:8

9 Titus 2:12-13

10 Hebrews 6:18a, 19

11 1 Peter 1:3b, 21

12 2 Corinthians 4:18

13 Ibid. 5:7

14 Hebrews 11:1 – The Living Bible

15 Psalm 27:14 – Complete Jewish Bible

16 Ibid. 37:7 – CJB

17 Ibid. 62:2 – CJB

18 1 Thessalonians 1:3

19 2 Thessalonians 3:5

20 Hebrews 6:12

21 Ibid. 10:38

22 Hebrews 12:1

23 James 1:2-4

24 Ibid. 5:7-8

25 Revelation 1:9

26 Ibid. 14:12

27 Chrysostom: Homilies on Romans 14

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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