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.
Hope of the believers’ assured future glory has been the theme of this subsection (verses 18–25), even when the word hope did not appear. Here Paul describes the object of hope and the attitude of hope that characterizes God’s people.
As creation groans, we groan. Our groaning is internal as each day brings its own set of troubles: infirmities of the body, conflicts with others, bills to pay, and temptations to sin. Freedom is promised yet delayed. As creation “waits with eager longing” (verse 19), we “wait eagerly,” both phrases translating the same verb. Creation and we likewise wait for the same thing—in verse 19 “the revealing of the sons of God” and here in verse 23 “adoption as sons.”Adoption’s culmination
Paul sees adoption as taking place in two stages. We already have an adoption, as we saw in verse 15. But the final stage awaits us. As Charles Cranfield puts it, “We have been adopted, but our adoption has yet to be publicly proclaimed.” When God displays us in public, how amazing we will appear!
The culmination of our adoption will be “the redemption of our bodies.” God has promised his children glorified resurrection bodies perfectly suited for life on a renewed earth (see 8:10–11). These bodies will be “wonderfully congruent with the realm of light and freedom and limitless movement,” in the words of Everett Harrison.
Most significant, these bodies will be like the body of Jesus Christ—powerful, beautiful, glorious. How highly God values the human body—the pinnacle of material creation! In this present age it is subject to decay and death, but even now the Lord is for the body (1 Corinthians 6:13). Just as God will redeem material creation, he will raise and glorify the bodies of those who have put their trust in Christ. Death, crying, mourning, pain will be no more (Revelation 21:4).God’s pledge
We know this marvelous destiny awaits us because God has given us a down payment on our future inheritance. This is the idea of what Paul calls “the firstfruits of the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives is our assurance that God will complete what he has promised.
In his construction of verse 23, Paul closely links the firstfruits of the Spirit with our inward groaning, prompting Douglas Moo to say, “It is because we possess the Spirit as the first installment and pledge of our complete salvation that we groan, yearning for the fulfillment of that salvation to take place.” The idea seems to be that the Spirit’s presence is like a savory hors d’oeuvres. It’s so delicious we want more, but alas, the entrée and dessert are delayed. We hunger for Christ’s returns.
Paul’s use of the firstfruits metaphor is also significant for another reason. In the Old Testament sacrificial system, firstfruits was an offering of the first and best portion of the crop given to God in gratitude for his blessings on the harvest. Here in 8:23 Paul reverses the concept. Now, as Richard Longenecker observes, it is “a gift given by God to his people as a pledge of something even greater yet to come.”Holding on to hope
Creation was subjected to futility “in hope” (verse 20). We were saved “in this hope” (verse 24). Paul’s verb “saved” denotes completed action. We have been saved. But salvation is also ongoing and until it culminates we live in hope. More than that, we rejoice in hope, through good times and bad.
In 5:2–5 hope begins and completes the circle embracing sufferings, endurance, and character. The same word ESV translates there as “endurance” is in verse 25 “patience.” No single English word quite conveys what Paul has in mind. Longenecker says the word was used widely in classical and common Greek to signify such personal qualities as “patience,” “endurance,” “steadfastness,” “fortitude,” and “perseverance.” Colin Kruse describes it thus: “not a passive waiting—killing time, as it were—until what is hoped for arrives, but rather a strenuous holding onto hope and doing good despite suffering and difficulties.”
In the turbulent waters of this life, hope is the Christian’s life rope tossed from heaven. R. C. Sproul says hope is the “saving factor for the Christian” that keeps us from despair while we still suffer despite having the firstfruits of the Spirit.