Covenant Protestant Reformed Church
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The Groaning Church Saved In Hope

Rev. Cornelius Hanko (no date given)


And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it (Rom. 8:23-25).

The apostle Paul emphasises in this chapter the fact that as long as we are in the flesh the people of God have a twofold nature, a twofold minding. He speaks of those who are after the flesh and mind the things of the flesh, as well as of those who are after the Spirit and mind the things of the Spirit.

Those who are after the flesh are enmity against God. They are not subject to the will of God; neither can they please God. Their end is death. Therefore as long as we live after the flesh and mind the things of the flesh we can have no peace, no comfort. Everything speaks of guilt, curse and judgement.

But the people of God are filled with the Spirit of God, who dwells within us. He is the Spirit of the risen God, who delivers from sin and death and gives us life and peace. He is the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, "Abba, Father," and are heirs of God, joint heirs with Christ.

Even in this life, the child of God can plainly see and know that His final glory and salvation is near. That is evident from all creation, which groans and travails together in pain even until now. All creation groans and labours but it does not despair, nor give up.

Ever since the fall in paradise, when the king of the earthly creation fell into sin and came under the judgment of God, all creation as his kingdom groans. This can be heard in the roaring of the tempest, the bellowing of the beast and the bleating of the lamb. It groans, but it continues to groan in expectation, for it labours to give birth to a new and heavenly creation, expecting the glorious liberty of the sons of God. God sustains His creation even unto the end to bring forth the heavenly glory of the redeemed church.

But what is more, not only they, but even we also groan within ourselves. What is true of the earthly creation is even truer of the church of God itself, standing in the midst of that groaning creation. We groan consciously, in contrast to the inanimate creature, eagerly and ardently desiring the fulfilment of our expectation. We groan because we are saved in hope, having received the firstfruits of the Spirit, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

This is expressed in the words of our text to which I would call your attention:

The Groaning Church Saved In Hope
I. Its Significance
II. Its Manifestation
III. Its Expectation


I. Its Significance

Being saved means that we have been delivered from a great misery unto the highest good. We can speak of this being saved from various aspects. We can speak of being saved in Christ. On the cross He merited our salvation and gave us the right to be called sons of God by His suffering and death. He delivered us from the power of darkness to make us children of God and heirs of salvation, having died and risen again.

We can also speak of being saved through the Spirit. God works His salvation in our hearts, implanting the life of Christ in us and calling us out of darkness into the light. We have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, "Abba, Father."

And we can also speak of the final salvation in heaven. The perfect deliverance of both soul and body to be filled with the blessedness of heavenly life. This is the right, finally, to be heirs of God in the house of many mansions.

In the words of our text the apostle has in mind the second, our being saved by the Spirit in our hearts, which he calls being "saved in hope."

What does this mean? This does not mean, first, that we are saved by hope, which is based on faith. Although true, it is not the idea here. He does not emphasise that the power of faith causes us to hope and bring us to glory. True in itself, yet not the meaning. A better translation is saved in hope. Neither does it mean that we hope to be saved, as if our salvation is more or less a doubtful thing, about which we must shrug our shoulders.

The idea is very plain. We are saved, yet not perfectly, so that we still hope for the final, complete salvation in heaven.

We are saved in hope because we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. The idea is drawn from the first sheaf brought to the temple on the Passover feast to be offered to God as the firstfruits of the harvest. It’s the first part of the harvest, the earnest for the whole harvest. Paul refers to it also in I Corinthians 15:20.

Here we have the firstfruits of the Spirit. We have the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. We have the blessings of the Spirit: regeneration, calling, faith, etc. Having the earnest of all heavenly blessings, one day we will have the final sheaf.

For that reason we hope. We are still awaiting the full harvest. We are still in the flesh. Being earthly and in the body, we do not yet see it. Thus we hope because we do not yet see it.

That we hope means that we expect and wait for it with earnest longing and ardent desire. We do this not by the old nature of sin (which never hopes), but by the grace of God and the new life within us. By hoping we are saved, for we are saved in hope.


II. Its Manifestation

This salvation in hope manifests itself in the fact that the church of God here on earth groans. This is the peculiar characteristic of that hope. We groan within ourselves. This groaning expresses an intense, ardent desire that fills the souls of the believers. In contrast to the inanimate creature we groan knowingly, intelligently, consciously.

What are the reasons for our groaning? Our groaning is caused, first of all, by the sin, imperfection and struggle of this present time. We long to be delivered from suffering and sin and we long for God’s vengeance, for the day of justice, upon the wicked.

On the other hand, our groaning is one of eager anticipation. It is as spontaneous as a plant’s turning to the sunlight; as a child’s longing in homesickness for home, father and mother and sisters and brothers; as an outcast’s pining away in loneliness or as a nomad’s longing for rest. In that sense, homesickness for heaven is the spontaneous characteristic of the child of God, because he belongs there. He waits, reaches out for his goal, because the Spirit in our hearts is never satisfied until our salvation is complete.

At the same time, even while groaning, we wait with patience. The reason for this patience does not lie in the blessedness of the heavenly glory. This causes the new life to often become impatient with longing. But the reason for the patience lies in the suffering. Even though suffering we can nevertheless be patient. We are patient in affliction.

Patience is that grace of God whereby we bear all, never despairing, because we lift up our heads in eager anticipation of our realised redemption. The gift of grace is rooted in hope and hope is rooted in faith.

We are patiently looking unto Christ. He who went before us as the perfect example of all patience is the author and finisher of our faith. We have His Spirit in our hearts. The Spirit assures us that He is entered into glory, from whence He blesses us and is about to return. Out of heaven He causes all things to work together for good for us unto His second coming.

Patiently waiting and groaning within ourselves, we are saved in hope. In hoping, we groan. In groaning we wait; we expect and we reach out longing arms toward our final, perfect salvation.


III. Its Expectation

As such, we expect the redemption of the body. This is not the desire to lose this body. This body must also be glorified and changed. In our flesh we shall see God! Only then can the soul be completely blessed. But we desire to shed all that separates us from glory. Then will come our final deliverance from sin, weakness, dishonour, and all the suffering of this present time. What a wonderful thing it will be to be redeemed from the power and dominion of death and raised in glory!

Closely related to this is the expectation of the adoption of children. Adoption has already taken place. From eternity, we were chosen in Christ. On the cross, we were adopted by the sacrifice of Christ’s atonement. In our hearts in time, our adoption is realised through the Spirit of adoption.

But we still await the final adoption. We expect complete deliverance from the world and sin and complete sanctification, to stand spotlessly holy before God. Our justification in Christ will be manifest perfectly to own souls and before the whole world. As the Psalmist puts it, "To view the glories that abide, then, then I shall be satisfied."

This hope gives us the assurance of salvation now. This hope causes us to reach out and work out our salvation to come. This is strengthened in the Lord’s Supper. Even as we hunger and thirst for glory, so also we hunger and thirst for the table of communion. God gives us a foretaste at the table; our faith is strengthened. So we groan and wait with patience. Amen.

The life of Rev. Cornelius Hanko, the author of these devotional sermons on Romans 8, is covered in his memoirs, Less Than the Least.