D. The Firstfruit of the Spirit

Romans 8:17 says “And if children, heirs also; heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him.” In verse 17 we see that we have progressed from children to heirs. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ. Paul’s thought here is very strong. Please notice the semicolon in this verse. It indicates that there is a condition involved in being an heir. We should not say that simply because we are children we are heirs. This is too hasty. There is no condition imposed for us to be the children of God. As long as the Spirit witnesses with our spirit, we are the children of God. However, for us to progress from children to heirs there is a condition. This condition is mentioned in the latter part of the verse.

The condition for being heirs of God and joint-heirs of Christ is that “we suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him.” We may not like suffering, but we need it. Remember that suffering is the incarnation of grace. We should not be distressed by suffering. If we suffer with Him, we will be glorified with Him. Although I cannot say that without suffering we will not be glorified, it is certain that the degree of our suffering determines the degree of our glory. The more suffering we pass through, the more our glory will be intensified, for suffering increases the intensity of our glory. We would like to be glorified, but we do not want to experience suffering. However, suffering increases glory. In 1 Corinthians 15:41 Paul says that “one star differeth from another star in glory,” indicating that some stars shine more brightly than others. We all will shine and we all will be glorified, but the intensity of our glory will depend on the amount of suffering we are willing to take. It is certain that the Apostle Paul in that day will shine more brightly than all of us. Do you believe that you will shine as brightly as Paul? We shall all be glorified, but the intensity of our glory will differ according to our suffering. Therefore Paul says in verse 18, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory to be revealed to us.” The present suffering means nothing compared with the coming glory.

Verse 19 reads, “For the anxious watching of the creation eagerly expects the revelation of the sons of God.” This revelation denotes the manifestation or the appearing of the sons of God. We all are the sons of God. As I have previously mentioned, if we tell people on the street that we are sons of God, they will think that we are crazy. They will say, “Look at you and me. What is the difference between us? We are both human beings. You are not different from me. You are just another person. Why do you say that you are a son of God?” However, the day will come when the sons of God will be manifested. In that day there will be no need to make the declaration, “From now on we are the sons of God,” because we all shall be glorified. We shall be in glory, designated as sons by the glory of God. Then all other people will have to admit that we are the sons of God. They will say, “Look at these people. Who are these people so full of glory? They must be sons of God.” There will be no need for us to say anything. We shall be designated by our glorification. The entire creation is waiting for this with watching eyes, for the creation eagerly expects the revelation of the sons of God.

Verse 20 continues, “For the creation was subjected to vanity, not of its own will, but because of Him Who subjected it.” We need to notice the word “vanity.” The entire creation is under vanity. Everything under the sun is vanity. The wise king Solomon said, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Eccl. 1:2). Creation is subject to vanity.

Then verse 21 says, “In hope that the creation itself will also be freed from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” We need to notice two other words, “slavery” and “corruption.” In the entire universe there is nothing except vanity and corruption. This corruption is a kind of bondage, a slavery that binds the whole creation. Creation has been made subject to vanity in the hope that it will be freed from the slavery of corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. One day the children of God will be glorified, brought into glory. With that glory there will be freedom, and that freedom will be a kingdom, sphere, or realm. The whole glory will be a kingdom, a sphere, into which we will be brought. When we are brought into that freedom or kingdom of glory, creation will be delivered from vanity, corruption, and slavery. This is the reason that the entire creation is awaiting that time. We have very much to do with the creation, for the future destiny of the creation rests upon us. If we mature slowly, the creation will blame us and murmur against us. It will say, “Dear children of God, you are growing too slowly. We are waiting for the time of your maturity, the time when you will enter into glory, the time when we will be freed from vanity, corruption, and slavery.” We must be faithful to the creation and not disappoint it.

Verse 22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groans together and travails in pain together until now.” It seems that one star groans to another and that the moon groans to the planets. They all groan together. Not only does the creation groan together, it also travails as in the pangs of childbirth. The whole creation is groaning and travailing together until now.

Verse 23 follows, “And not only so, but we ourselves also, having the firstfruit of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan in ourselves, eagerly expecting sonship, the redemption of our body.” Although we have been born through regeneration as the sons of God and have the Spirit as the firstfruit, we also groan because we are still in the body which is linked to the old creation. We must admit that our body still belongs to the old creation. Since our body belongs to the old creation and has not yet been redeemed, we are groaning in it as the creation does. However, while we are groaning we have the firstfruit of the Spirit. The firstfruit of the Spirit is for our enjoyment; it is a foretaste of the coming harvest. This firstfruit is the Holy Spirit as a sampling of the full taste of God as our enjoyment, of all that God is to us. God is so much to us. The full taste will come in the day of glory. Nevertheless, before the full taste comes, God has given us a foretaste today. This foretaste is His Divine Spirit as the firstfruit of the harvest of the full enjoyment of all that He is to us.

If you talk with unbelievers, they will admit that, in a sense, they have some enjoyment in their entertainments, like dancing and gambling. However, they will also tell you that they are unhappy. You may ask them, “Why do you go dancing or to a gambling casino?” They would reply, “Because I am so sad, so depressed. I need to do something.” They also are groaning, but only groaning; there is nothing else. We, on the contrary, as we are groaning, have within us the Spirit as the firstfruit, as the foretaste of God Himself. Even as we are suffering, we have the enjoyment. We have the taste of the presence of the Lord. The presence of the Lord is simply the Spirit as the firstfruit for our enjoyment. So, we are different from worldly people. They experience groaning without the inward enjoyment. We, however, groan outwardly, but rejoice inwardly. Why do we rejoice? We rejoice because we have the firstfruit of the Spirit. The Divine Spirit within us is the foretaste of God which leads us to the full taste of the enjoyment of God. This is a great item in the blessings of sonship.

While we are groaning and enjoying the firstfruit of the Spirit, we are expecting sonship. Here sonship means full sonship. Although we have sonship within us, this sonship has not yet become full. In that day we will know full sonship. What is full sonship? It is the redemption of our body. We have sonship in our spirit through regeneration and we may also have sonship in our soul through transformation, but we do not as yet have sonship in our body through transfiguration. In the coming day we will also have sonship in our body. This is full sonship, our longing expectation.

While we are waiting we need to grow. We do not need to groan as much as we need to grow. Although we need to rejoice continually, while we are rejoicing we need to grow. Many among us are too young, too immature. We all must grow and be matured. The time of the coming of that glorious day depends upon our growth in life. The faster we grow, the sooner that day will come.

In verse 24 Paul says, “For we have been saved in hope; but hope that is seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he also hope?” What is the hope mentioned here? It is the hope of glory. We have been saved in the hope that some day we will enter into glory. Paul says that “hope that is seen is not hope; for what anyone sees, why does he also hope?” What does this mean? It means that the thing for which we hope will be wonderful because we have never seen it. Hence, it is a real hope. If we have seen even a little of it, it would not be such an excellent hope. If you were to ask me about the glory in the future, I would say that I know nothing about it because I have never seen it. I cannot speak about that glory because I have not seen it. It is a wonderful hope.

Verse 25 continues, “But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly expect it through endurance.” So many expectant saints have asked, “Lord, how long? Another ten years? Another generation? How long, Lord?” This is a test to our endurance.