Romans 8:22 is giving me some fits right now. How does creation groan?
First of all, I think we need to ask, “What creation?” This is a question that would seem foolish to many, since to them there is only one creation, and that is the one that God made in the beginning. Yet this passage is one of those that makes such a view difficult, for then are rocks, trees, birds, and bees groaning?
This view is given further impetus by those who insist that any time the word “creation” is used, it is referring to creation ex nihilo, or out of nothing, as when God created in the beginning. Therefore, they insist that anything that is created out of already existing materials is not a creation.
This idea has been around for a long time, but does not match up to the Word of God, though it might appear so, since our translators have often translated in order to fit this idea of creation. Yet if one were to examine the Greek word for creation, ktisis, one would find it used in I Peter 2:13-14, which reads as follows.
13. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14. or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good.
Here, the word translated “ordinance” in the NKJV is the same Greek word ktisis, or “creation,” and this verse would properly be translated: “Therefore submit yourselves to every creation of man for the Lord’s sake.”
The context makes it obvious that “every creation of man” referred to here are kings and governors. This makes sense, for in reality, every time we as men choose a leader, we are creating a leader. For example, when we take a man and elect him as President, we have just created a President. We have not created the man, of course, but we have taken an already existing man and created him as a President. The same is true when we elect mayors, governors, senators, and so forth. These things are human creations, though they are certainly not ex nihilo, nor were they made any time close to the creation of the earth. Therefore, creation need not be ex nihilo, nor need it be a creation of God, but can just as easily be a creation of man.
Now God of course is the Creator. He created all in the beginning, and He has created many other things since. He is capable of creating things out of nothing, as He did in the beginning, or of creating things out of existing material, such as He does every time He takes a sinful man and renews him, replacing his stubborn heart. So the question here is, is this a creation of God referred to (which I believe it is,) and, if so, which creation of God?
Now as you point out, it makes little sense to say that the creation referred to is the creation God made in the beginning. A rock, for example, does not wait for anything, as verse 19 suggests. Even if we limit it to animal creation, it seems highly doubtful that the animal creation has any conception of the corruption of their current existence, or any expectation that anything will ever happen to improve their lot. Animals seem largely to accept their existence the way it is. It is men who not only exist, but also question their existence and the reason for it, and why it is the way it is. This we have been given for our lot as the rulers over the earth and all in it, and animals do not share with us in this privilege and burden.
So I think we have to limit the creation referred to to men, leaving aside altogether anything else animal, vegetable, or mineral. Yet that said, what creation among men is meant? For if it is all men, then we still have difficulties. For verse 20 tells us, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope.” This cannot refer to all Adamkind. If it did, I suppose it would have to refer to the fall, yet the fact is that we through Adam did fall willingly, and though that fall led to futility, he who subjected us to it, if not Adam, was then Satan, who certainly did not subject us to it in hope, and Adam subjected us to it in rebellion. What, then, is this talking about?
I believe that the creation referred to here is Israel. Israel is a nation that God created. If you doubt this, consider Isaiah 43:1.
But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.”
Here, the LORD states that He has created Jacob and formed Israel. They were not a people, yet He made them a people. They were not a nation, yet He made them a nation. Thus, Israel was a Divine creation.
Now what if we relate the creation talked about here to Israel? Did they eagerly await for the revealing of the children of God? Indeed, Israel were the ones who knew the Scriptures, and who knew that one day God would again give them leaders to shepherd and guide them in His kingdom. The rest of the nations knew nothing of this, and so did not eagerly await it.
Israel was subjected to futility when it was subjected to the law. God subjected them to the law, knowing that by the deeds of the law no flesh should be justified in His sight. Yet still He subjected Israel to this futility in hope, that is, expectation, knowing that someday He would make a new covenant with them that would free them from this bondage forever.
Did Israel groan and labor with birth pains? Indeed, their whole history is one full of groans and labors, all because they were the people of God. At the time Romans was written, those inside the land were impoverished, and those outside the land were oppressed. They did indeed groan in their labors for God.
It was the created nation of Israel that groaned under the bondage of their law, but that would be released from that into the glorious liberty that the children of God enjoy. We who are Gentiles were never under the bondage of the law, so though we might enjoy that liberty, we were not by it released from the bondage God subjected Israel to.
So that is what I think the creation is that is being talked about. This speaks to my philosophy regarding a lot of Biblical things: that people don’t go basic enough with their questions. For example, asking what the body of Christ is, when you have not first made sure you know Biblically what a body is.