8
September
2016

ROMANS 8:17 SUFFERING IS THE PATH TO GLORY

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Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Verses 14–17 contain four proofs of our being sons and daughters of God, if the Holy Spirit has indeed brought us into God’s family. First, we are led by God’s Spirit. This refers to our conduct. If we are following after Christ in true and obedient discipleship, then we are Christ’s and can be assured of salvation. Second, we have the internal witness of our spirits by which we cry “Abba, Father.” We know that we have a new family relationship to God. Third, the Holy Spirit witnesses to us. I described this as an overwhelming sense of God’s presence, something most Christians have experienced, though they may not understand it or know how to describe it. Fourth, we participate in Christ’s sufferings.[1]

1.     We have a heavenly home. The first thing that comes to mind here is the promise of a heavenly home that Jesus made to his disciples just before his arrest and crucifixion. He said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1–3[1]

2. We participate in a heavenly banquet. In several of his parables the Lord spoke of a heavenly banquet to which his own are invited. In one story he told of a great wedding supper to which many were invited who later refused to come, and of how the master sent to unexpected places to find guests (Matt. 22:1–14; cf. Luke 14:15–24). In another parable it is a banquet prepared for the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). In still another it is a wedding feast to which five wise women are admitted and five foolish women are shut out (Matt. 25:1–13). There are similar but passing references to other occasions of shared celebration.

These stories present our inheritance as joy and secure fellowship. We have a foretaste of these things in our observance of the Lord’s Supper, which looks forward to the coming great marriage supper of the Lamb.[1]

3. We Rule with Christ. Another feature of our inheritance is that we will rule with Jesus in his kingdom. There is some difference among Bible scholars as to whether this refers to an earthly rule with Christ in some future age or to a heavenly rule only. But whatever its full meaning, there is no doubt that some important ruling authority is promised. Paul told Timothy, “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). In one of his parables, Jesus spoke of servants who had shown their faithfulness during their master’s absence being awarded cities over which to reign in the master’s kingdom (Luke 19:11–27).

4. We become Like Christ. One of the promised blessings, which means a great deal to me, is that we will be made like Jesus himself. John writes about it in his first letter, using language similar to Paul’s in Romans 8. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:1–2). It is hard to imagine a greater inheritance than to be made like the Lord Jesus Christ in all his attributes.[1]

In the OT every tribe except Levi received a land inheritance (cf. Joshua 14-22). The Levites, as the tribe of priests, temple servants, and local teachers, were seen as having YHWH Himself as their inheritance (cf. Ps. 16:5; 73:23-26; 119:57; 142:5; Lam. 3:24). NT writers often took the rights and privileges of the Levites and applied them to all believers. This was their way of asserting that the followers of Jesus were the true people of God and that now all believers were called to serve as priests to God (cf. 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6), as the OT asserts of all Israel (cf. Exod. 19:4-6)

They had no inheritance because, as it was said of them, “the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them”

Joshua 13:33 But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them.

If the earnest of our inheritance is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is God—as he is, being the third person of the Trinity—then the full inheritance must be God himself.

 

wonderful words by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. They were written for preachers to encourage them to keep on in tough times, but the message is equally good for anyone. It goes like this:

Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world.

Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure.

Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret.

Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord.

Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for recompensing joy hereafter.

Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide.

Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under the shadow of his wings.[1]

But why should Paul introduce the idea of suffering, of all things—and at this point? None of us would do it. If we were trying to assure Christians that they really are Christians and their salvation is secure, suffering is probably the last thing we would mention.[1]

So why does Paul drag the subject in here?

One reason is that he was a realist.

 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “True evangelism does not offer some panacea for all the ills in our life in this world; it does not promise to make us perfect in a moment or set the whole world right. It says rather, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation; but fear not, I have overcome the world.’ ”[1]

A second reason Paul probably introduced the subject is that he must have been aware of the many non-Christian approaches to suffering that were around. They were around then, and they are around today. [1]

1. Anger. One response to suffering is anger. This is common with unbelievers, who blame or even curse God for their misfortunes. But it is also sadly true of some Christians. They blame God because he has not done something for them that they wanted—He has called us to discipleship. The glory is hereafter.

2. Avoidance. A second approach is avoidance. If the path before them looks hard or even undesirable, some people turn from it and try to find something easier or more rewarding. Or, if the path cannot be avoided, they try to balance it with other things that are more attractive. The Christian form of it is to ask God to remove the undesirable thing—sickness, for example, particularly a terminal illness. Christians who take this approach think the correct way is to ask God to remove the sickness so that afterward they might praise him for the healing. Of course, it sometimes is God’s will to heal, so it is not wrong to ask for healing.

3. Apathy. The third non-Christian approach is apathy, detachment from the problem. It is the attitude that says, “It just doesn’t matter,” and then tries to think about something else. One form of apathy is stoicism, the philosophy of the stiff upper lip. Stoicism may help you get by, but it is joyless and far removed from Christianity.[1]

 There are two basic things to remember about suffering.

First, suffering is necessary. Jesus taught that it was necessary for himself when he said to the Emmaus disciples, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Luke 24:26). Then he proved that this was necessary by showing it to them in the Scriptures, beginning with Moses and all the prophets. Jesus taught that suffering is necessary for us when he said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20b) and “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33a, kjv).

Second, although suffering is necessary (and has value), suffering is not the end of the story for Christians. Glory is! If suffering were the end, Christianity would be a form of masochism, suffering for suffering’s sake. Since it is not the end, since suffering is the path to glory, Christianity is a religion of genuine hope and effective consolation.

The Christian who needs to worry about suffering is not the one who is suffering, particularly if it is for the sake of Jesus Christ. The person who should worry is the one who is not suffering, since suffering is a proof of our sonship, a means for the spread of the gospel, and the path to glory.

So let’s hang in there! And let’s encourage one another as we run the race and fight the long battles.

We need each other, but we have each other. That is what we are given to each other for. Thus, by the grace of God, we may actually come to the end of the warfare and be able to say as Paul did to his young protégé Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7–8). May it be so for all God’s people.[1]

 2Co 4:8-11, 17-18, 1peter 4:12-14, 1peter 2:20-23, 2cor 11