Romans 8:17. if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
The next part of Romans 8 deals with suffering, and so we will spend the next few days looking at suffering here at To Live is Christ. The past few days we have looked at our sonship. Today we will see how Paul moves his readers from sonship to suffering. Yes, these are connected.
If we are sons of God, we WILL suffer. If we are to be heirs with Christ, we MUST suffer.
Suffering is not a new topic for Paul, nor is it for us here at this blog. 2 Corinthians was a letter that dealt quite deeply with the suffering that we experience being united to Christ. There Paul began to work out his theology of suffering and glory. Here in Romans 8 he will masterfully (and more succinctly) connect our suffering to the glory of the indwelling Christ.
Some have seen Romans 8:17 as teaching that only those Christians who choose the path of suffering will reign in the next life. But the scriptures teach that ALL Christians will experience the glory of Christ at his return.
2 Thessalonians 2:10. when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed
Colossians 3:4. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
1 John 3:2. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.
If all Christians will experience the glory of Christ at his return, and (according to Romans 8:17) suffering is what produces this glory, then it means that all Christians must suffer. Suffering is what we are called to. It’s what it means to be a Christian.
There are three ways that all Christians suffer sbecause we are sons of God.
First, as sons, we experience the discipline of God our Father when we sin. This is one of the most important proofs of our sonship. God, our father, will discipline us because that is what good dads do. God’s discipline is always for our good, but it is also never pleasant. It is suffering. But it is also the privilege of sonship – knowing that our Dad loves us too much to let us spiral downward. This is the suffering of sin.
Second, as sons, we all suffer as we long for the day when we are with our Brother and our Father. I won’t linger here because this is where Paul will go next, but every Christian suffers simply by continuing to live this earthly life apart from the physical presence of God. This is the suffering of sorrow.
Third, as sons, we suffer righteously for the cause and kingdom of our Brother and Father. All Christians suffer in this way. We all choose to love. We all serve. We all live beyond the self. The Spirit compels us to this. The indwelling Christ produces this self-sacrifice and thus this suffering. Suffering occurs as we fight evil in this world as we await the next. This is the suffering of service.
“To live is Christ” offers us the glories of sonship, but also the sufferings of sonship. These two realities cannot be separated. There is not one without the other. And both prove God’s fatherly love and mercy in our lives.
Have you connected your sufferings to your sonship? How does union with Christ guarantee both our suffering and our salvation?
As we focus on suffering this week the music of Derek Webb just seems appropriate.