Suffering and Glory

Romans 8: 18-39

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

 

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can beagainst us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

 

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

So, throughout this section of Romans, really beginning in chapter 5, Paul has in a broad way been unpacking the process of sanctification. And, this was a shift. He began the letter by really talking about Justification, which is the fact that because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can be made right before God instead of our reality that on our own before God we are completely wrong and deserving of death. So, God has done an incredible thing by extending grace to us through Christ. But, that grace does not only cover our sort of legal standing before God, it doesn’t only set things right between us and God so that one day when we stand before the judgment seat of God as Paul described we will be declared innocent, it also changes us in the here and now. And, that process by which we are being changed in the here and now is known as sanctification. This is God working in us to conform us into the image of Christ. In other words, it is God working in us to make us more like Jesus over the course of our lives. And, Paul began broadly unpacking sanctification starting in chapter 5. Here’s how he started things: we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 

 

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

 

So, Paul has set the stage that God is doing something in us through suffering. God uses trials and problems and challenges and, yes, suffering to do incredible things within us, to help grow us up into Christ. In our text just this past week, Paul said:

16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and 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.

 

And, understanding this is going to be critical for you moving forward. If your understanding of God is that he primarily exists to make you happy or to give you whatever you want, you have bought into a notion of God that much more closely resembles Aladdin’s than the God of the Bible. If your understanding of God is that he died for you so that you won’t suffer in some way in life, you are simply wrong. Rather, Paul’s perspective would be that Christ died so that you might be justified and sanctified before the Father so that you could be called a child of God and an heir with Christ. In the meantime, though, Paul has already set the stage that we still struggle. We are currently trapped between this world and the next in a way. Because of Christ we seek to set our minds on the things of the Spirit, but we also still wrestle with the flesh, and even Paul says, sometimes I do things I don’t want to do. And, sometimes I do things that I don’t even understand. This is our present struggle, and I think it’s a source of much of our suffering as believers. The mind of the Spirit and the flesh are often diametrically opposed.

 

So, as our text picks up today, here’s Paul’s point: the present struggle, our present suffering is totally worth it compared to what is to come. We know that there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ. So, that is what he calls the hope of glory. That word glory in the Greek is the word “doxa,” and it means honor. So, Paul is saying that what is to come for those who are in Christ is not just salvation but honor. That we will be honored along with Christ has children of God and heirs to his kingdom. So, if this is true, who cares what we have to endure right now. And, I just want to remind us, this good news, this gospel blows away anything the Jews might have thought they were expecting out of a Messiah. Remember, many of the Jews were primarily anticipating the Messiah to be a military leader who would restore the worldly glory and fortunes of Israel. But, what actually happens is that Jesus shows up and through his death, not his victory in war, he is bringing about a form of glory that far exceeds anything any nation could ever aspire to.

 

But, the present moment is challenging, and it’s not just us. Paul says, the whole creation is groaning. The whole creation recognizes that this is not what it was made for. And, this calls our attention back to the garden where this all started. That’s when the whole creation was “subjected to futility.” But, the image here is that the creation has become increasingly pregnant with futility, and the death and resurrection of Christ truly set things into labor. What we said two weeks ago is that it is easier for us to walk in the flesh with our mind set on the flesh because our mind and body are not in conflict. Remember, Jesus said, “easy is the path that leads to death.” The harder path, the path of suffering is the path where the mind is set on the Spirit and not the flesh. But, when the mind is set on the Spirit, there is reason for hope, and this is the hope that we were saved into. We don’t see it fully now. Paul’s point in verse 24 is that if we could see it all now, it wouldn’t be hope. That in order for a person to hope something, it has to be something that is not currently present and not currently seen. But, our hope is bigger than just salvation. Don’t miss this. Our hope is more than that we won’t be separated from God because of our sin. Our hope is that we will be called children of God and heirs with Christ. This is where God is flagrant in his generosity.

 

And, thankfully, he has not left us alone in our suffering. This is why he has given us the Spirit. The Spirit even prays for us because so often we either don’t prayer or we don’t know how or what to pray. The Spirit is praying on our behalf. The Spirit is interceding before God on our behalf. He is our helper. When we are weak, he is strong. Now, let’s try to follow Paul’s train of thought here:

 

– Through Christ we are promised a future as children of God

– But, in the present moment we experience suffering because the Spirit and the flesh are in conflict.

– But we have faith in a hope of future glory that we do not see fully in the present moment.

– And some more good news for us is that even in the present moment, we have the spirit who intercedes for us and who helps us in our weakness.

 

Now, look at verse 28:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

 

So, God works all things together for the good for those whom he has called. Remember, Paul has made claims of gospel exclusivity throughout this book. Even here, things are worked together for the good for those whom God has called to his purposes. But, what is “the good” here? Because this is a verse that gets thrown around a lot. If you got the job you wanted or if you’re kids got into the school you wanted or if you loved one was healed from an illness. We’re inclined to say, “well, God worked everything together for the good.” And, I don’t want to discount the fact that God is at work in the everyday of your life, because he certainly is, but, here, let’s consider the context. “The good” is defined by verses by verse 29 and 30. For those whom he foreknew, are the people described by verse 28 as “those whom he has called according to his purpose.” So, for those who are called according to his purposes, God has predestined or preordained that they would be sanctified. Now, don’t let that word “predestined” throw you off. Paul is not really saying anything new here, we already know that God is going to justify and sanctify those who are in Christ. So, things being worked together for “the good” here is that those whom God has called will be sanctified; they will be heirs with Christ; they will also be sent with God purposes; they will be justified and they will ultimately be glorified or honored. And, the Biblical hope in being glorifed, is that we will receive perfected bodies. That in the end, this battle between the mind of the spirit and the body of flesh will be over because God is going to redeem the flesh of the body.

 

So, this is where we’re going to stop for today, but I will leave you with the next verse and hopefully you can now see why Paul would say this: “if God is for us, who can be against us?” If God has done everything that Paul has just described, then what would we ever have to worry about. What could we ever have to be afraid of? But, don’t miss this, because if you miss this you are going to be lost. Paul is describing what God has done through Christ…not what you have done. He is describing what God has done on your behalf. This is all God’s work. And, I’m going to leave you with that truth, and we’ll pick up next week. 

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