Romans 8:17-30

Nov 8, 2009


The outline above can generally speak for itself.  On a macro level, it is all about hope.  The outer terms communicate truth about how present suffering relates to God’s purpose and future glory.

The inner terms are crafted based upon the idea of waiting.  Here two entities are waiting for the fulfillment of hope - creation and Christians (who have the Spirit).  It is interesting that Paul takes a novel structural approach in 8:23-27 in that he compares (“in like manner” 8:26) the groaning, on one hand, of saints who have the Spirit with, on the other, that of the Spirit who is with the saints!

The last section is a bit more complicated.  There seems to be two types of parallel structure (amazingly combined in the one text).  Thus, in one sense, an ABBA pattern can be seen and in another sense, an ABAB pattern is observed.  In the outline, this dual pattern is signified by use of combined lettering (“aa”) where the ABBA is shown by the first letter reading downward and the ABAB is shown by the second letter.  Regarding the ABBA, it is more obvious for the outer terms.  I have dubbed them as “Intro” and “Concl” to indicate that what he introduces in 8:28, he is concluding in 8:30 (especially 30b if one is paying attention to how the Greek particles are used as pivots).  Thus, he introduces suffering and God’s purpose (“in order that”) in vs 28 and climactically concludes with the fulfillment of of that purpose.  The expectation of future glory from our perspective is an already accomplished act in God’s purpose.  Regarding the ABAB pattern, Paul uses both Greek tense and theological reference to the effect that there is an alternation between the various times of the believer’s redemptive history.  He alternates ABAB in this way: Present / Past / Present / Future.  Term “a” (vs 28) emphasizes our present suffering.  Term “b” (vs 29) parallels what he has just introduced in a threefold manner, but, by use of both tense and reference, he emphasizes the past aspect of the believer’s redemptive history.  Note that “those who are (presently) loving God” (8:28) are shown to be those whom God has foreknown (God is the one who at first, in the past, loved them).  Again, the synergistic suffering for “good” of vs 28 is explained as predestination to Glory (his Son’s glorious image) in vs 29.  Thirdly, even God’s purpose, expressed in vs 28, is explained Christocentrically in vs 29, “for him to be the firstborn among many brothers.”  In term “a’ ” (vs 30a), Paul uses past tenses, but he is making reference to the recent / present aspect of the believer’s experience in redemptive history.  We were called and acquitted (justified) recently in redemptive history (and so they are part of our “now” as contrasted with either the future or our pre-conversion experience).  Regarding term b’ (vs 30 b), the translations don’t show the last turn of thought indicated by the the Greek particle de.  Here Paul is obviously referring to what is future in the believer’s experience.  He uses the past tense to show the certainty of its fulfillment since it has been accomplished in the mind and purpose of God.