Project Augustine

Romans 8: 17 – 18

 

8/10/07

 

“[I]f indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”    – Romans 8: 17 – 18

 

Q:  In Romans 8: 17 – 18, how can suffering lead to something glorious?  How can anything redemptive come out of suffering?  How are Christians supposed to see our present sufferings in relation to God’s purposes, his plans, and even his being and nature?

 

Exegesis

 

Background to the Epistle

 

  1. The context of these verses of chapter 8 falls into one of the major themes of the epistle, what justification and new life in Christ mean for the believer, which can be traced back to chapter 5.
  2. Perhaps most common is to see chapters 5 – 8 as centered on freedom from several enslaving powers from which believers are liberated from through the gospel: (Reuman, p. 1291)
    1. Romans 5, the believer is freed from the wrath of God
    2. Romans 6, the believer is freed from sin and (the believer’s old) self
    3. Romans 7, freed from law
    4. Romans 8, freed for life in the Holy Spirit and for hope
  3. The primary message that Paul wants to communicate in this section of the epistle is that the believer is now, in Christ, totally free from these enslaving powers.  (ibid)
  4. Thus having explained what the believer has been set free from, in chapter 8 Paul then shifts his focus toward the role of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of eternal life in the life of the believer.  (ibid)

 

 

Context and Exegesis of Romans 8: 17 – 18

 

  1. In the verses immediately preceding verses 17 & 18, Paul writes about the Holy Spirit being the spirit of adoption.
  2. The believer’s adoption into God’s family means not only to be his children, but also heirs.
    1. Just as the Son of God had to suffer before entering into his glory (1 Peter  1: 11), so the children of God by adoption must suffer “with him” before sharing in his glory.
  3. Because we are joined to Christ, who was the servant of the Lord “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53: 3), we can expect the path to our glorious inheritance to be strewn with difficulties and dangers.
  4. In suffering like Christ they were suffering with Christ.
    1. They were more than spectators of his sufferings now, more than witnesses, more even than imitators;
    2. They were actually participants in his sufferings, sharing his “cup” and his “baptism.” So, as they share in his sufferings, they would also share in his glory.  (Stott, p. 314)
  5. For Paul, suffering was one of the marks of true gospel ministry (2 Cor 4: 7 – 17; 11: 23 – 28) and discipleship (Phil 3: 10 – 11; Col 1: 24).  (Dockery, p. 683)
    1. The future sharing of Christ’s glory eclipses any suffering experienced in the earthly life.
  6. The exchange of suffering for “glory” occurs at Christ’s second coming where on that day, believers, and creation itself will experience the fullness of God’s glory in Christ.
    1. The focus upon future glory through hope for the future kingdom rescues suffering from meaninglessness in the present.  (ibid, p. 680)
  7. It is then the (eschatological) hope of glory that makes suffering bearable.
    1. The essential perspective to develop is that of the eternal purpose of God, which is to make us holy or Christlike.
    2. His purpose is to present us “before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”   (Stott, p. 314)
  8. Believers, facing the necessity of “suffering with Christ” in this world can nevertheless be confident and secure, knowing that God has determined to bring us through to our inheritance (verses 18 – 22, 29 – 30)  (Moo, p. 1141)
    1. God is also providentially working on our behalf (v. 28)
    2. He has given us his Spirit as the guarantee of our final redemption  (v. 23)

 

 

 

Hermeneutics

 

  1. Questions about suffering (and theodicy) are one of the most challenging difficulties in Christian life, theology, philosophy, and life as a whole.
  2. Often, most “pastoral” advice or sermons fall short of giving us an enduring sense of closure during times of intense pain and suffering.  Questions of “Why?” often are left unanswered.
    1. How can we say to a person struggling with cancer that their suffering will produce some type of glory in the end?  Or that God is using their suffering to build up character, perseverance, maturity, holiness, etc.?
    2. Not all suffering leads to glory
  3. More likely, Romans 8: 17 – 18 deal more with suffering and being persecuted for the gospel than with everyday suffering.
  4. But after studying and meditating upon these verses I’ve come across some interesting observations:
    1. Daniel Migliore makes a very keen observation that Romans 8: 9 – 30 is saturated with Trinitarian language.
    2. In these verses, Paul strains to express the love of God through Christ that moves back and forth between “God,” “Christ,” and “Spirit.”
    3. In Christian prayer and practice, we are united with Christ by the Spirit and are drawn into the life of the triune God.  (Migliore, p. 69)
    4. In these verses, believers come face to face with the immanent Trinity.
      1. Paul here is describing an intra-trinitarian dialogue happening among the three persons of the godhead
      2. In other words, in these verses we get an intimate glimpse of what goes internally within the triune godhead among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit when dealing with our lives, particularly when we go through times of suffering.
      3. Interesting to note that in Romans 8: 9, Paul basically identifies the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ as almost being one and the same.
    5. In Romans 8: 26 – 27, Paul writes that the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, groans for believers as they pray and anticipate their glorification.  (Dockery, p. 682)
      1. Even though the Spirit groans with words that cannot be expressed, the Father knows what the Spirit is thinking.
      2. Though believers during this in-between time are often unsure and unaware of what to pray, the Holy Spirit communicates their concerns for them to the Father and the Son.
    6. What this means is that God the Holy Spirit cares for our sufferings and more importantly, in his “groanings” he suffers with us; our triune God suffers with us.
      1. We are never alone in our suffering.
      2. It is here that the triune God displays his glory and aids us in our glorification to be more “conformed to the image of His son” (Romans 8: 29)
      3. In a way, the Bible testifies to the pain of God.
      4. Our God is a suffering God who chooses to suffer alongside of us in intimate communion with his children.
    7. If one of God’s attributes is to be loving, then he must be self-giving, which inevitably means that he must be vulnerable to pain
      1. This means that he exposes himself to rejection and insult
    8. To derive any sort of true meaning and glory to suffering, then it must be communal (as the Trinity indicates) where the suffering is shared and whereby true healing happens.
      1. This is why Jesus says that in ministering to the hungry and thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and the prisoner, we would be ministering to him, indicating that he identified himself will all needy and suffering people. (Matthew 25: 34 – 40)
        1. Thereby, truly “we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” (Romans 8: 17)
      2. The life of hopeful suffering is not to be lived in isolation from others. Christians experience a foretaste of the release from the bondage of suffering thru participation in life of Christ – esp. in the church.
        1. The life of hope comes to expression in the community of faith, the church. (Dockery, p. 683)
  5. We may never truly get a suitable “answer” to the problem of evil and suffering.  Yet personally, as a child of God, the closest thing to an answer (if it can even be called that) I have is the knowledge that God suffers alongside me and groans for me and with me during my darker moments in life.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

  1. Reumann, John.  “Romans”, Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, James D. G. Dunn & John W. Rogerson, editors, 2003
  2. Moo, Douglas J.  “Romans”, New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, G.J. Wenham, J.A. Motyer, D.A. Carson, R.T. France, editors, 1994
  3. Stott, John R. W.  The Cross of Christ, 1986, 2006
  4. Dockery, David S., general editor, Holman Bible Handbook, 1992
  5. Migliore, Daniel L., Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, 2nd Ed., 2004

 

 

 

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