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. – Rom 8:17
Paul is in the middle of one of the greatest chapters in the New Testament, speaking to the church in Rome about the gospel, the justification, sanctification and glorification of the church due to the faithfulness of God. Of course, God’s faithfulness becomes an issue in the very next chapter and Paul spends three chapters explaining the faithfulness of God to Israel. Speaking on those chapters is for another post (or 40 posts!)
This post is to deal with Paul’s description of the church’s / believer’s glorification, and the relationship we have in our suffering for Him. Paul, according to my understanding, is linking the glorification of the saint with the suffering we undergo.
We are “heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him..”
Now this sticks in my craw since I have always believed it is the blood of Christ that has provided sonship for all that believe, that trust the message God has provided. How can the glorification of the child of God discussed above be dependent on the child of God’s suffering?
I suppose a viable reading would be that as children of God, based on our faith, we will inevitably suffer with Him. This may be the possible reading, but then I would imagine that the verse should be read as
…..if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ,
provided we since we definitely shall suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Italics inserted by author
If suffering is inevitable for the believer (and I think it is – see Acts 14:22), what is Paul telling the church? Why does he introduce the “fellow heir” topic and link it, make it dependent on our suffering with Him. If suffering is inevitable, a simple admonition to endure may have been expected. (But then the Bible often does not provide what is expected!)
I think the logic for the short passage goes like this
- Sons of God – led by the Spirit of God Romans 8:14
- Not Sons of God – have spirit of slavery, live in fear Romans 8:15
- Children of God – witness of Spirit of God Romans 8:16
- Children of God = heirs of God, proven by suffering with Him Romans 8:17
As an aside, it is interesting that Romans 8:9 also introduces this “possibility” or “conditional” (if so be..) thought into a passage that for many years I saw as one of the strongest passages defending the OSAS (once saved always saved) position.
So can a person be a child of God and experience no suffering? In other words, if a child of God experiences no suffering, will they experience glorification?
This is a short post, primarily due to my lack of ability to understand this verse without my previous position influencing me.
I am very open to discussion on this (and any other post) that may cause you to question my thinking. Your challenges to my thoughts are warmly invited and I look forward to some giving my some clarity on this passage.
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