Romans 8:18-23 : Trinity IV
June 19, 2016
St Paul’s Anglican Church
“The Apocalypse of Man”
The Trinity Season – represented by green, the dominant color of God’s plants – is the season given to growth spiritual… growth in wisdom… growth in character… growth in faith… growth in love.
The epistle lesson before us this Trinity Season Sunday morning is superb! But what exactly does it mean? And how do we apply it to our lives?
St. Paul is showing us how God’s purposes grow in time and in history… extending on into eternity – just as the green plants with which He has covered His world grow in time far beyond what we might expect! He has been writing to the Church in Rome (in the preceding verses) about Christ’s Resurrection!
And he says that Jesus’ Resurrection, which occurred at a single point in time… has grown in influence and has come to His people and made an immediate impact on them which will affect their lives for time and eternity. They have already been resurrected, as it were.
Then he points out that our Lord’s Resurrection continues to grow far beyond us – like the ripples of water caused by a rock thrown into a still pond — to impact the created order itself (and here he uses the Greek term ktisis – which means “the sum or aggregate of things created”).
And just as His people groan and suffer in this world because they have made a clean break with the sons and daughters of the first Adam… their priorities… their plan of salvation… their utopian quest and vision – so, too, this world groans under the very same curse!
The descriptive Greek term St. Paul uses for vanity when he says the creation was subjected to vanity (at the Fall) – not willingly, but by the decision of God Himself Who subjected it in hope of a future restoration through His Son’s Atonement… is the term mä-tī-o’-tās– void orvacuum! Emptiness!
The picture he conveys shows the world as a person trying to grow and develop and advance into God’s purposes for it – but finding only futility… only frustration! It sees Isaiah’s vision of the wolf and the lamb dwelling together… the leopard and the lamb… the lion and the calf… and the little child leading them. It sees the infant playing near the cobra’s den… the young child putting its hand – horror of horrors -– into the viper’s nest… but without danger or injury (for it represents a transformed world)! BUT THIS CREATED ORDER HAS NO TRACTION to bring it to pass by itself! All it feels is the void of sin and the frustration of lies and deception everywhere!
“What will eventually happen?” we ask. Verse 21 tells us clearly the world will, indeed, eventually be liberated and transformed and fully discover God’s glorious plans for it! This will not happen, however, in the vacuum. It will take place along with the conversion of mankind – and mankind’s development in the Resurrection power of our Lord!
God’s plan for change does not come through revolt and rebellion… but through regeneration! His purposes come about not through lawlessness… but through lawfulness!
I often wonder how many Christians understand God’s glorious plan and outcome for history? Do you understand it? Do I really understand and appreciate it? I hope so.
Dear St. Paul says something absolutely profound in his line of reasoning! Reading from the NIV: …the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
Listen to the same verse in another newer translation which catches its essence: the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.
St. Paul takes the personification so far as to indicate the Creation understands its emancipation will come about only when the sons and daughters of God are revealed (regenerated)! When those who come under the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ and live new lives marked by the power of His Resurrection come onto the scene and take their faith seriously! I have this delightful picture in my mind of God’s creation looking at us and asking, “Are you among the ones who will help deliver me?” It is a profound and probing picture!
We should further point out that when we are told the creation looks earnestly for the revealing (the manifestation) of the sons and daughters of God – the word used is apocalypse! Can you believe it? You mean like the Apocalypse of St. John? Yes! Exactly!
Unfortunately, fallen man has destroyed the word apocalypse… and given it a whole new meaning and connotation — and Christians, I am sorry to say, have gone along with them! Today it means the “end of the world” – death… destruction… nuclear annihilation… cosmic holocaust… obliteration… extinction…
When used by St. Paul, however, apocalypse meant to reveal (from which we obtain the word “revelation”). The Book of Revelation reveals that Christ is on His Throne and that He is the Victor… and that His people who are with Him are more that conquerors. The Creation is looking for all such who are so marked. St. Wilfrid, of old, was one such! St. Patrick was another so marked.
Millions of people today claim to be Christians – but are they so marked? Do they have any clue what they are to do… and how much hangs in the balance? All Christians are so marked if they do their work honestly, competently, conscientiously, speaking the truth, living the truth, bringing about the rule of Christ in their own lives and families… their own spheres… to the glory of Jesus Christ!
What a perverse picture we have before us! The Creation desperately waiting for the apocalypse of regenerated man! But fallen man (including all too many Christians) waiting for the apocalypse of this world – exactly the opposite of the outcome God has promised in the Lesson before us this morning!
An ancient saying reminds us that the Son of God became the Son of Man… that the sons of man might become the sons of God! And this still rings true! God and His Creation are still watching!
World without end. Amen.