on Romans 8 :19
For the earnest expectation of the creature - There is considerable difficulty in this and the four following verses: and the difficulty lies chiefly in the meaning of the word ἡ κτισις, which we translate the creature, and creation. Some think that by it the brute creation is meant; others apply it to the Jewish people; others to the godly; others to the Gentiles; others to the good angels; and others to the fallen spirits, both angelic and human. Dissertations without end have been written on it; and it does not appear that the Christian world are come to any general agreement on the subject. Dr. Lightfoot's mode of explanation appears to me to be the best, on the whole. "There is," says he, "a twofold key hanging at this place, which may unlock the whole, and make the sense plain and easy.
1. The first is the phrase, πασα ἡ κτισις, which we render the whole creation, Romans 8:22, and with which we meet twice elsewhere in the New Testament. Mark 16:15 : Preach the Gospel, πασῃ τῃ κτισει, to every creature; and Colossians 1:23 : The Gospel was preached, εν πασῃ τῃ κτισει, to every creature. Now it is sufficiently apparent what is meant by πασα κτισις in both these places, viz. all nations, or the heathen world. For that which in St. Mark is, preach the Gospel to every creature, is, in St. Matthew, go and teach, παντα τα εθνη, all nations. And this very phrase in this place lays claim to that very interpretation. And the Hebrew כל הבריות col habberioth, which answers to the Greek πασα ἡ κτισις, every creature, is applied by the Jews to the Gentiles, and that by way of opposition to Israel.
2. The second key is the word ματαιοτητι, Romans 8:20, which is not unfitly rendered vanity; but then this vanity is improperly applied to the vanishing, dying, changing state of the creation. For ματαιοτης, vanity, does not so much denote the vanishing condition of the outward state, as it does the inward vanity or emptiness of the mind. So the apostle, speaking of the Gentiles concerning whom he speaks here, tells us εματαιωθησαν, They became vain in their imaginations, Romans 1:21; and again, The Gentiles walk εν ματαιοτητι, in the vanity of their mind, Ephesians 4:17; so also, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, ὁτι εισι ματαιοι, that they are vain, 1 Corinthians 3:20. To all which let me add this farther observation, that throughout this whole place the apostle seems to allude to the bondage of the Israelites in Egypt, and their deliverance from it; with a comparison made betwixt the Jewish and the Gentile Church. When God would deliver Israel from his bondage, he challenges him for his Son, and his first-born, Exodus 4:22. And in like manner the Gentiles earnestly expect and wait for such a kind of manifestation of the sons of God, within and among themselves. The Romans, to whom the apostle writes, knew well how many predictions and promises it had pleased God to publish by his prophets, concerning gathering together and adopting sons to himself among the Gentiles; the manifestation of which sons the whole Gentile world with a neck as it were stretched out, as the word αποκαραδοκια implies, (απο, from, and καρα, the head, and δοκαω, to expect), doth now wait for." See the observations at the end of this chapter, (Romans 8:39 (note)).
on Romans 8 :19
For the earnest expectation - ἀποκαραδοκία apokaradokia. This word occurs only here and in Philippians 1:20, "According to my earnest expectation and my hope," etc. It properly denotes a state of earnest desire to see any object when the head is thrust forward; an intense anxiety; an ardent wish; and is thus well employed to denote the intense interest with which a Christian looks to his future inheritance.
Of the creature - τῆς κτίσεως tēs ktiseōs." Perhaps there is not a passage in the New Testament that has been deemed more difficult of interpretation than this Romans 8:19-23; and after all the labors bestowed on it by critics, still there is no explanation proposed which is perfectly satisfactory, or in which commentators concur. The object here will be to give what appears to the writer the true meaning, without attempting to controvert the opinions of critics. The main design of the passage is, to show the sustaining power of the gospel in the midst of trials, by the prospect of the future deliverance and inheritance of the sons of God. This scope of the passage is to guide us in the interpretation. The following are, I suppose, the leading points in the illustration.
(1) the word "creature" refers to the renewed nature of the Christian, or to the Christian as renewed.
(2) he is waiting for his future glory; that is, desirous of obtaining the full development of the honors that await him as the child of God; Romans 8:19.
(3) he is subjected to a state of trial and vanity, affording comparatively little comfort and much disquietude.
(4) this is not in accordance with the desire of his heart, "not willingly," but is the wise appointment of God; Romans 8:20.
(5) in this state there is the hope of deliverance into glorious liberty; Romans 8:21.
(6) this condition of things does not exist merely in regard to the Christian, but is the common condition of the world. It all groans, and is in trial, as much as the Christian. He therefore should not deem his condition as especially trying. It is the common lot of all things here; Romans 8:22, But,
(7) Christians only have the prospect of deliverance. To them is held out the hope of final rescue, and of an eternal inheritance beyond all these sufferings. They wait, therefore, for the full benefits of the adoption; the complete recovery even of the body from the effects of sin, and the toils and trials of this live; and thus they are sustained by hope, which is the argument which the apostle has in view; Romans 8:23-24. With this view of the general scope of the passage, we may examine the particular phrases.
(The opinion which is perhaps most generally adopted of this difficult passage, is what explains κτίσις ktisis of the whole irrational creation. According to this view, the apostle, having adverted to the glory that awaited the Christian, as a ground of joy and comfort under present sufferings, exalts our idea of it still higher by representing the external world as participating in, and waiting for it. "This interpretation is suitable to the design of the apostle. Paul's object is not to confirm the certainty of a future state, but to produce a strong impression of its glorious character. Nothing could be better adapted to this object, than the grand and beautiful figure of the whole creation waiting and longing for the glorious revelation of the Son of God, and the consummation of his kingdom." Hodge. In the original it is the same word that is rendered alternately "creature" and "creation."
And the meaning of the passage depends, in great measure, on the sense of this single word. Generally speaking, it signifies anything created. The particular kind of creation is determined by the context alone. Of course, whatever sense we may attach to it, must be continued throughout the whole passage, as we cannot suppose the apostle uses the same word in two different senses, in one place, without any intimation of the change. To what then does κτίσις ktisis refer? It is maintained by those who adopt the view noticed above, that it cannot refer to angels, either elect or fallen, since the former have never been subject to the bondage of corruption, and the latter are not waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God; that it cannot allude to wicked people, for neither do they anxiously look out for this manifestation; that it can no more refer to saints or renewed people, since these are expressly distinguished as a separate class in Romans 8:23; and that, therefore, it must be understood of the whole manimate and irrational creation.
It is further argued, that every part of the context may be explained consistently with this view. The passage is supposed to present a very bold and beautiful instance of the figure called prosopopoeia, by which things inanimate are invested with life and feeling, a figure which is indeed very common in Scripture, and which we need not be surprised to find in this place, amid so much that is grand and elevating; Joel 1:10, Joel 1:20; Jeremiah 12:4; Isaiah 24:4, Isaiah 24:7. According to this interpretation of κτίσις ktisis then, the general sense of the apostle may be thus given. The whole irrational creation is interested in the future glory of the sons of God, and is anxiously waiting for it. For then the curse will be removed from the very ground, and the lower animals relieved from oppression and cruelty. The very creation, on account of the sin of man, has been subjected to the curse, and has become "vain" or useless in regard to the original design of it, having been made subservient to the evil purposes and passions of man.
This state of subjection to vanity is not willing, but by restraint. Violence is imposed, as it were, on external nature. But this shall not continue. There is hope in the heart of the subject world, that ὅτι hoti it shall be delivered from this bondage, and participate in the liberty of the children of God. This representation may seem strange and unusual, but "we know" certainly, adds the apostle, that it is so; that "the whole creation πᾶσα ἡ κτίσις pasa hē ktisis, groaneth and travaileth in pain throughout every part. Even we, who are saints of God, and have been favored with the earnests of future bliss, feel the general oppression, and groan within ourselves, while we wait for the period of deliverance, in which the very body shall be ransomed from the grave and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body.)
Of the creature - The word here rendered "creature" κτίσις ktisis, occurs in the New Testament nineteen times, and is used in the following senses:
on Romans 8 :19
8:19 For the earnest expectation - The word denotes a lively hope of something drawing near, and a vehement longing after it. Of the creation - Of all visible creatures, believers excepted, who are spoken of apart; each kind, according as it is capable. All these have been sufferers through sin; and to all these (the finally impenitent excepted) shall refreshment redound from the glory of the children of God. Upright heathens are by no means to be excluded from this earnest expectation: nay, perhaps something of it may at some times be found even in the vainest of men; who (although in the hurry of life they mistake vanity for liberty, and partly stifle. partly dissemble, their groans, yet) in their sober, quiet, sleepless, afflicted hours, pour forth many sighs in the ear of God.