December 3, 2023 • Life for Leaders
Scripture — Romans 8:15-17 (NRSV)
When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Chapter 8 in the New Testament book of Romans offers a different experience of the themes of Advent. It fuels our hope. It accentuates our waiting. It points to our future inheritance as children of God. Yet this chapter also invites us to live today in the Spirit-filled reality of the coming future.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Advent for the Children of God.
Today is the first Monday of Advent, a season in which Christians remember and reflect upon the “advent” or coming of the Messiah. To be more accurate, this is a time for us to ponder both “advents” of Christ who came among us as the baby born to Mary (Galatians 4:4) and who will come again as King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:13-15). In Advent we remember Israel’s hope as they waited for the Messiah and we rekindle our hope for his second coming and the shalom he will bring to all creation.
Since I began writing devotions in 2008, I have written dozens of Advent-themed devotions that I have shared during the first weeks of December. I intended to write several more this year. Though the basic Advent themes – hope, waiting, peace, love – would be familiar, I was looking for a distinctive way to explore them with you.
As I was considering several options, my wife started reading a book by N.T. Wright, Into the Heart of Romans: A Deep Dive into Paul’s Greatest Letter. This surprised me because, though Linda is an avid reader, I’m almost always the person in our family who reads books by N.T. Wright, a leading New Testament scholar. When I asked Linda about it, she explained that she had heard Wright on a podcast and wanted to learn more from him. She was loving Into the Heart of Romans.
So, inspired by my wife, I purchased Wright’s book and began reading it. It isn’t a survey of Romans so much as an in-depth exposition of Romans 8. As I made my way through Into the Heart of Romans, I was struck by the fact that Romans 8 is filled with Advent themes. Though I have studied and taught Romans 8 several times in my life, I never connected it with Advent before. But what I discovered was striking to me.
For example, the Greek word for hope, elpis, appears more times in Romans 8 than in any other chapter of the New Testament (4 times). One of the basic Greek verbs meaning “wait” also shows up more often in Romans 8 than in any other biblical chapter (apekdechomai, 3 times). The frequency of “hope” and “wait” in Romans 8 points to the fact that this portion of Romans has much to say about the future when God’s glory will be fully revealed to the whole creation. So, though Romans 8 does not speak explicitly about the second coming of Christ, it offers a distinctive perspective on what will happen in the future. This is the focus of our hope and that for which we, along with all creation, wait “with eager longing” (8:19).
In our time of waiting, God is present with us through the Holy Spirit (8:8-11). The Spirit helps us to know God as our Father, reassuring us that we are “children of God” (8:16). As God’s own children, we are “heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ” (8:17). In this way Romans points once again to the future when we will inherit all the riches God has stored up for us. Chief among these riches is glory. Not only will God’s glory be revealed to us (8:16), but in some breathtaking way we will be glorified along with Christ (8:17).
Romans 8 encourages us, as children of God, to wait expectantly for the wonders of the future. This chapter inspires our hope that, one day, God will enable us to share in divine glory. When this happens, all creation will be set free from “its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (8:21).
Thus, Romans 8 offers a different experience of the themes of Advent. It fuels our hope. It accentuates our waiting. It points to our future inheritance as children of God. Yet this chapter also invites us to live today in the Spirit-filled reality of the future.
As we make our way through Advent, I’ll examine in greater depth the Advent-themed portions of Romans 8. I pray that your hope in God will be rekindled and expanded as you see all that God has planned for us as children of God, and through us, for the whole creation.
What does the season of Advent mean to you?
What are you hoping for during this season?
Read all of Romans 8. Pay particular attention to portions of this chapter that highlight Advent themes (hope, waiting, future, inheritance, glory).
Gracious God, thank you for the season of Advent. How good it is to be reminded of the hope we have in you.
As we feel the brokenness in our own lives, we yearn for the time when you will make us whole. Even more, we look forward to seeing your glory and even sharing in it.
Lord, we see such brokenness, not only in ourselves, but also in our world. So much violence, hatred, injustice, racism, and selfishness. We fail in our calling to care for our fellow human beings, not to mention the earth that you’ve entrusted to us. We long for the day when “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
In our waiting, Lord, may we discover what it means to live today as your children. May we be open to all that your Spirit might do in and through us. To you be all the glory, both now and in the future. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project’s online commentary. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Suffering With Christ in Order to Be Glorified With Christ (Romans 8:15–17).
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.