How did that happen [that our world is just a “faint image of its former glory”]? Our passage [Romans 8:18-25] says it was deliberately subjected to futility. Indeed, the futility of the earth comes from the hand of God. The very God who pronounced his creation good, has also created a world that would need a cross, need a savior, need redemption. It was God who cursed the creation after the fall. And it is God himself who will redeem it.
– Dr. John Neufeld, Senior Pastor, Willingdon Church, Burnaby BC
This is a big thought… especially for those of us who spend little time thinking big thoughts. So sit down and let it sink in.
What Pastor John is saying is this: God deliberately caused the world to become fallen and corrupt, filled with pain and evil, so that this same world would be in profound need of a savior, Jesus Christ. As he wrote, “the futility of the earth comes from the hand of God.” This is explicitly taught by the Apostle Paul:
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21 ESV).
But praise God in His wisdom that His Son, our Savior, was also given by Him to redeem this fallen world! When evil overcomes me, through the acts of others or through my own sin, and I lift up my soul with cries to God, it is not a weak or desperate God to whom I pray. The God of the Bible is not some Monarch who has lost control of His Kingdom. He is not a King pitched in frantic battle to reclaim what an enemy has seized. He is a sovereign, holy, gracious, merciful and loving Creator who created the best possible Universe: one in which He reveals Himself and displays His sovereign power (Rom 9:22a) in order to also display and reveal His holiness, grace, mercy and love on those whom He has chosen by grace alone (Rom 9:23). The means of His gracious, saving act, of course, is the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of His very Son.
How is it that hard times or a little suffering in my life can cause me to selfishly turn away from contemplating Christ’s Gospel, even for a moment, for little pleasant distractions? If the “futility” to which the world was subjected is for the purpose of displaying God’s saving glory, then for what purpose has God gifted me with the little bits of suffering I have received from His hand? Isn’t it for that same purpose? Shouldn’t my struggles lead me directly to the foot of the cross, by faith, where I ought to throw my hands in the air and sing with all my heart the praises of His glorious grace (Eph 1:6; 1 Pe 2:9)?
“…we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:23b-24a ESV).
Our faith in Christ (a.k.a., the “Christian Faith”) is a forward-looking, hopeful faith. The grounds of our faith is a one-time, historic event in a particular Middle Eastern city—namely, Jesus’ death on a roman cross and His supernatural resurrection. The living-out of our faith is the here-and-now, with all the suffering, to various degrees, to which the Creation and we ourselves are subjected. “For in this hope we were saved.”
Thanks Pastor John for that good reminder. Read his whole article at the Gospel Coalition website here.
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (Romans 8:18-25 ESV).