For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of him who subjected it, in hope.
...The meaning of all the misery in the world is that sin is horrific. All natural evil is a statement about the horror of moral evil. If you see a suffering in the world that is unspeakably horrible, let it make you shudder at how unspeakably horrible sin is against an infinitely holy God. The meaning of futility and the meaning of corruption and the meaning of our groaning is that sin – falling short of the glory of God – is ghastly, hideous, repulsive beyond imagination.
Unless you have some sense of the infinite holiness of God and the unspeakable outrage of sin against this God, you will inevitably see the futility and suffering of the universe as an overreaction. But in fact the point of our miseries, our futility, our corruption, our groaning is to teach us the horror of sin. And the preciousness of redemption and hope.
So let me sum up what we have seen and then relate it to our personal suffering. Three ways Paul puts our sufferings in a global context.
-First, he shows that the futility and corruption and groaning of the world is a judicial decree of God, not just a fluke or a law of nature. God subjected the creation to futility.
-Second, he shows that this subjection includes all history from the fall to the coming of Christ. There is no period of history that escaped or will escape from this decree of futility. But it is temporary. It had a beginning (verse 20), and it will have an end (verse 21 – "the creation will be set free from his slavery to corruption").
-Third, he shows us that all creation, not just part of it, is involved in the futility. Verse 22: "The whole creation groans."
All of this global context Paul tells us because he wants to help us understand our situation and endure our sufferings with faith and hope. We will focus on the hope next week. But notice in closing the personal point of this global vision of suffering. Verse 23 brings it down out our personal situation. "And not only this [that is, not only does the whole creation groan], but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves." I stop there. I know the next phrases are full of hope.
I will glory in them next week. But let us be helped this week by the realism of Paul about our present situation. We too groan. Do you see the point now of the global vision? The point is that we are a part of it. Even we who have the down payment of our inheritance. Even we who have a sovereign God who works all things together for our good. Even we who are the bride of Christ. Even we for whom God gave his only begotten Son. Yes, even we groan under the curse of creation.