Having made the analogy firm, connecting the experience of those in Christ (and the to-be-redeemed creation) to that of Israel in Egypt, replete with groaning that God hears, we find that we have been well-prepared to comprehend verses twenty-eight through thirty. Just before doing that however, because we are going to cover a quite popular and well-worm verse that is often treated in isolation and therefore lacking all context, we enhance the credibility and legitimacy of our opinion by quickly retracing verses twenty through twenty-three of chapter eight.
So by way of review, Paul has written that “the creation was subjected to futility---not willingly but because of God who subjected it,” which could be tentatively said of Israel in Egypt because of the knowledge of God’s promise to Abraham, “in hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children.” Any talk of God’s children is an indication that the story of Israel as the covenant people of God, historically, as summed up in Jesus, and as continued by those that believe in Jesus, looms large in the background. “For we know that the whole creation,” like Israel, “groans and suffers together until now.”
Then, having brought the creation into the scope of God’s redemptive operation and thus indicating that the power of death and corruption has been (is, and will be) nullified, Paul moves on to the people of God that are the people of God because of their covenant inclusion via belief in Jesus as the crucified and resurrected Messiah and Lord of all, stating “Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.” The groaning is paramount, and provides the conceptual link going forward, as Paul also proposes that the groaning is the interceding of the Spirit of God (8:26).
So, it is with Israel’s redemption from the bondage of Egypt in mind, as it is situated as evidence of the Creator God’s faithfulness towards His covenant with Abraham, that Paul goes on to say “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (8:28). How do we know this? We know this because a groaning Israel, with a promise of something akin to resurrection, received liberation from Egypt. God heard, God understood, and God acted. If God’s covenant faithfulness towards Israel is any sort of guide, then we know that God will do the same for His new and expanded covenant family that have been brought together in fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham, and to fulfill the role that Abraham’s family was to have in and for the world. With this, because of the movement of the letter and of the immediate exodus and covenant associations of what surrounds it (the groaning), we see that the statement of verse twenty-eight is rooted in the historical narrative of God’s dealings with Israel.
Israel was most certainly a people called according God’s purpose. The creation itself was called into existence for a purpose. The worldwide covenant family that has been made so through believing in Jesus has definitely been called out for a purpose. As Israel routinely suffered in the midst of their being called, as the creation continues to suffer, and as those that have confessed their allegiance to the kingdom of God through their confession of the Gospel of Jesus continue to suffer, there is groaning. There is the intercession of the Spirit. This groaning, which we might be able to equate to a recognition and admission of the continued existence of evil and that which binds and continues to attempt a thwarting of God’s purposes and to halt the ongoing manifestation and continual advance of His kingdom (as evil seeks to discourage our holding fast to a realization of the covenant faithfulness of the Creator God), serves as a reminder to those that are part of the people that have been placed within the narrative of God’s restorative plan and who are charged to live in accordance with the activation of that covenant plan, that God hears, God understands, and that God does indeed act.
How does He act? While we do not limit God’s ability to act directly in the world, we, along with Paul, realize that He deigns to act through His covenant family, as they have been charged to be the righteousness of God (the covenant faithfulness of God) in the world. Accordingly, covenant participants are to act in ways that serve to defeat that which seeks to continually deface and mar God’s creation, whether that defacing is directed towards the creation into which we have been placed or the beings created in His image, either of which limits the ability of the creation to offers its praises or the image-bearers to adequately reflect God’s glory into His creation (thereby limiting the creation’s ability to praise its Creator in a vicious, stultifying circle). Kingdom actions are those things that demonstrate and announce the advent of the kingdom of God, with these taking the form of both word and deed (deeds being far more weighty). The model for this, of course, is Jesus, who went around announcing the kingdom of God, and through His actions that served to show forth God and therefore the image that humanity was to put on display, proved that the kingdom had come and that God was becoming King through Him, as He carried out God’s will on earth as in heaven.