Groaning for a Redeemed Body: Romans 8:23–25

groaning redeemed body (2)

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2) Rom 8:23–25: In the previous verses (Rom 8:18–22), the Apostle Paul expressed that both we and all the sub-human creation desperately yearn for the deliverance which shall come when God fully reveals the glory of his people.[1]

He began v. 23 by writing, “And not only [creation] but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, we also within ourselves are groaning, eagerly awaiting adoption, the redemption of our bodies.”

By repeating “we also ourselves” Paul made his statement highly emphatic.[2]



First fruits (aparchē) consisted of the earliest part of a harvest. Immediately after Passover each year, a priest waved a sheaf of barley before the Lord to dedicate that harvest.

Fifty days later, Israelites held a similar ceremony for the first fruits of the wheat harvest (Exod 23:14–19; Lev 23:5–11, 15–21).

Seven weeks and one day separated these rites, so people called the second one the Feast of Weeks (Num 18:26).

Highlighting the importance of these festivals, God commanded every man in Israel to gather to celebrate them every year (Deut 16:16).[3]



The Greek name for the Feast of Weeks is Pentecost, a term meaning fiftieth.[4]

Significantly, the Holy Spirit came upon the earliest Christians during the first Pentecost after Jesus’s resurrection (Acts 2:1–4).

Therefore, Paul’s used the term “first fruits” as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit living within God’s people (2 Cor 1:21–22; Eph 1:13–14).

In an interesting twist, God gifts us with the presence of the Holy Spirit as a pledge of greater things in the future.

This first fruit does not signify what we offer to the Lord.[5]

God has already begun his redemptive work within us, which shall finally reach its culmination in the age to come (Rom 8:11–13; Tit 3:5–7).[6]



Paul wrote, “We ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, we also within us are groaning.”

These utterances connect us with the rest of creation (Rom 8:18–21).[7]

Although we have received the great blessing of salvation, we still experience the sin and death of this fallen world (2 Cor 4:7–12).[8]

As a result, we endure the frustrations of living in the “now and not yet” era of the kingdom of God (Phil 1:21–24).[9]

Our groaning does not occur despite possessing the Spirit but precisely because he dwells within us.[10]

Due to his presence, we experience the anguish of knowing what we are missing (2 Cor 5:1–8).

A friend of mine likened this to recognizing that you have great needs and seeing a huge pile of presents bearing your name under the Christmas tree

…in November.



In the age to come, God shall display our current status as his vice-regents—the sons and daughters of the Lord—to everyone (Eph 1:5–6).[11]

This concept of sonship closely relates to image-bearing (Gen 5:3).

Likewise, Scripture describes the son of God as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15).[12]

In the covenant which the Lord made with David, God promised to the king’s descendant, “I shall be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Sam 7:12–16).

Later in Israel’s history, the Lord applied the designation “my son” not only to the royal messiah, but also to the end-time people of God (Hos 1:10).[13]



In keeping with Deut 30:6, the author of a second century BC Jewish manuscript wrote:

And after this they will turn to Me in all uprightness and with all [their] heart and with all [their] soul, and I shall circumcise the foreskin of their heart and…the heart of their seed, and I shall create in them a holy spirit, and I shall cleanse them…

And their souls will cleave to me…and they will fulfill my commandments, and I shall be their Father…And they will all be called children of the living God, and every angel and every spirit will know, yea, they will know that these are my children…and that I love them.[14]



This concept of being a son or daughter of God did not originate with the New Testament (NT).

The Lord had promised to redeem righteous Jews from their exile in a second exodus, joining them with the gentiles as God’s people (Isa 2:1–4; Zech 8:20–23).[15]

Jewish scholars recognized the term “sons of God” as a distinguishing mark exclusive to faithful members of Israel.

Yet, they welcomed and included believing gentiles (Josh 2:1, 8–14; Josh 6:25; Ruth 1:4, 16–18; Ruth 4:13–17).[16]

By applying several Greek Old Testament texts to gentiles (Isa 52:11 and 2 Sam 7:14),[17] with an overt expansion to include women by adding the word “daughters,” Paul demonstrated that all believers equally comprise the heirs of God (2 Cor 6:16–18; Gal 3:26–29).[18]



Although the Lord has adopted us (Rom 8:14–17),[19] the full benefit of our new status remains in the future (Rom 8:10–11, 28–30). Sonship can already be ours yet be the object of our hope.[20]

As a result, we long for “the redemption of our bodies” at the time when God makes all things new and we experience put on Jesus’s perfection (1 Thess 4:13–18; 1 Cor 15:42–55; Rev 21:5–7; 1 John 3:2–3).[21]  Only then shall we receive complete redemption (Phil 3:20–21).[22]



Paul explained that our expectant waiting should not surprise us, writing, “For in hope we were saved.”[23]

The full enjoyment of our salvation lies in the future.[24]

Employing wordplay, he wrote, “Hope which is seen is not hope, for who hopes for what he sees?”

Hope remains a certain prospect which we do not yet possess (Heb 11:1),[25] and simultaneously, an attitude which we display.[26]

“But if we hope for what we do not see, then patiently (hypomonē) we eagerly wait (apekdechomai).”

For the third time in seven verses, Paul used the term “eagerly wait.”[27]

A rare word outside of the New Testament, it connotes an “expectation of the end” (1 Cor 1:4–9),[28] as if people attending a parade crane their necks to see what comes next.

Since the hope of believers relies upon God—rather than ourselves—we can endure the intense pressure of the trials of this life (Rom 5:1–5; Heb 12:1–3; James 1:2–4).[29]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Rom 8:23–25. What does it mean to have the first fruits of the Spirit? Why does having the Holy Spirit within us cause us to groan? What are the implications of our adoption by God? How did Paul use the word hope in two different ways? What does our hope produce in us? How are you like Lamech (Gen 5:28–29)?






Go to Helped in Our Weakness (Rom 8:26–27)

[Related posts include Seeking Relief (Gen 5:28–32); In Adam’s Likeness and Image (Gen 5:3–5); Co-Heirs with Christ (Rom 8:16–18); Creation’s Eager Expectation (Rom 8:19); Subjected to Futility (Rom 8:20); Set Free from the Slavery of Corruption (Rom 8:21–22); Perishable Flesh and Blood (1 Cor 15:50); We Shall Be Changed (1 Cor 15:51–52); Victory over Death (1 Cor 15:53–55); Clothed with Christ (Gal 3:26–27); Adopted as Sons (Eph 1:5–6); Citizens of Heaven (Phil 3:20); Glorified Bodies (Phil 3:21); and The Firstborn of All Creation (Col 1:15–18)]

[Click here to go to Chapter 5: Groaning and Grieving (Genesis 5:28–6:8)]


[1]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 518–9.

[2]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:417.

[3]Richard O. Rigsby, “First Fruits,” ABD  2:796–7.

[4]Arndt, Danker, and Bauer, “πεντηκοστή” (pentēkostē), BDAG, 795.

[5]Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 224.

[6]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 520.

[7]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:419.

[8]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 520.

[9]Dunn, Romans 1–8, 474.

[10]Moo, Romans, 267.

[11] Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:413.

[12] Kirk, Unlocking Romans: Resurrection and the Justification of God, 142.

[13]J. Andrew Dearman, The Book of Hosea (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 104.

[14]Robert Henry Charles, trans., “The Book of Jubilees, or The Little Genesis” (Edinburgh; London: Black, 1902), 1:22–24,

[15]Ciampa, “The History of Redemption,” in Central Themes in Biblical Theology: Mapping Unity in Diversity, 272.

[16]Ben Witherington III, Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998), 269–70.

[17]Seifrid, “Romans,” Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 771.

[18]Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 406.

[19]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:419.

[20]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 521.

[21]Dunn, Romans 1–8, 474.

[22]Witherington and Hyatt, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 225.

[23]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 521.

[24]Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, 1:419–20.

[25]Ryken, Wilhoit, and Reid, eds., “Hope,” DBI, 399.

[26]Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 522.

[27]Dunn, Romans 1–8, 476.

[28]Walter Grundmann, “ἀπεκδεχομαι” (apekdechomai), TDNT, 2:56.

[29]Moo, Romans, 268.