Romans 8:17–18: Suffering With Christ

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 4: Sunday

…and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Romans 8:17

At the beginning of Romans 5, Paul touched on the tribulation that Christians undergo. He returns to suffering in chapter 8. I’d meant to go ahead and write on Romans 5:17–25, but as I’ve prayed and kept reading, writing, and praying, I’ve decided I need first to narrow the focus to a truth about suffering that is hard to face: while our experiences vary across times and cultures and countries, the truth is that as Christians we will suffer.

Romans 8:17 contains two ifs. In Greek grammar both ifs describe a condition that is true. That first if refers back to verses 14–16 about being children of God. Since we are children, we are now heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. The second if also describes a condition that is true: it doesn’t mean suffering might happen, those who are God’s children and fellow heirs with Christ will suffer. Jesus, Himself, said:

“Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.”
John 15:20

Paul reiterates this to Timothy:

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
2 Timothy 3:20

We need to soberly consider what the Lord Jesus said, what Paul told Timothy and what he teaches in Romans 8:17. Francis Shaeffer writes,

“It is wonderful to be able to say that I am a joint-heir with Christ. It is wonderful to be able to identify with Christ in this way. Jesus is in heaven, and we are told elsewhere in Paul’s writings that already, right now, in God’s sight we are in the heavenlies with Christ (Eph. 2:6)…But we are not in the world of glory yet. We’re in the world that hates God. We’re in the world that crucified Christ. So when I talk about the wonders of identification with Christ, I must immediately understand what this means considering the world’s current attitude toward Christ.

“…Our identification with Christ in the present life means identification with the Christ whom the world will not accept. Let us be courageous as we read Christ’s accurate warnings of what the world would do to Him (Matt 16:21–24). Let us be even more courageous as we consider Christ’s warning that “a disciple is not above his master (Matt. 10:16–24), meaning that the world may do the same to us…

“Yes, identification with Christ also means suffering with Christ. Should I draw back, then?”1

As you read these next words of Paul, remember that he wrote Romans during his third missionary journey. At this point in his life Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, and shipwrecked. He had suffered hunger, thirst, cold, exposure, and many dangers. He had know fear, and been burdened excessively, beyond his strength, so that he despaired even of life. Think of what Paul had been through as you read his words.

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 8:18

Paul wrote Romans within a year or two of writing 2 Corinthians. He had similar words of encouragement for the church at Corinth:

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16–18

Look at that again. In Romans Paul says our suffering is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. In 2 Corinthians he calls all the things he has suffered momentary, light affliction, and says it is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. After all he had been through, Paul says present suffering is absolutely nothing compared to future glory.

Schaeffer goes on to say:

“Is there suffering in connection with salvation? Yes, there is suffering. Are there tears? Yes, there are tears. Is there cost? Yes, there is cost. “Joint-heirs with Jesus Christ” includes identification with Him in His suffering. But the sufferings of this present time (verse 18) are not worthy to be compared with the glory that will follow. “Not worthy to be compared!” It’s like a song, like a shout of victory, a triumphant blowing of the trumpets. It’s the call to war and the call to glory: “Not worthy to be compared,” small dust in the balance…

“…Do you sometimes say, “I can’t go on any longer”? Don’t be ashamed. I say that sometimes. “I just can’t go up the hill any longer.” Do you say it for yourself? Do you say it for some of those you have led to Christ, who now suffer persecution for Jesus’ sake? Where shall we look for rest? Paul directs us to a single point, to the glory that lies ahead.”2

Edmund Clowney tells this moving story about the Huguenots, French Protestants who endured great suffering because they were children of God, and fellow heirs with Christ.

The Museum of the Desert in the Cevennes mountains of southern France commemorates the sufferings of the Huguenot martyrs. When Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes is 1685, Protestant public worship became a crime. Men caught at secret worship services in the fields were sent to the galleys. Chained to a rowing bench, they slaved at the oars until they died. A replica of one of the great galley oars hangs in the museum today. Underneath is a model of a galley. Beside it are inscribed the words of a Reformed Christian galley slave: ‘My chains are the chains of Christ’s love.’”2

They knew Christ’s great love for them in His suffering and death. They, in turn, loved him, and were willing to suffer as children of God.

Suffering will continue to be a theme for the rest of Romans 8. Paul will explain more of the suf­ferings of this present time, comfort us with how God helps us here and now, and reassure us of God’s unfailing love.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
A Huguenot Cross: Syryatsu, GFDL (CC BY-SA 3.0) (CC BY-SA 2.5) (CC BY-SA 2.0) (CC BY-SA 1.0).
At the National Huguenot Society you’ll find a history of the Huguenot Cross and this explanation of its symbolism:
• The insignia consists of an open four-petal Lily of France — reminiscent of the Mother Country of France — in which each petal radiates outward in the shape of a “V” to form a Maltese Cross. The four petals signify the Four Gospels. Each petal, or arm, has at its outside periphery two rounded points at the corners. These rounded points are regarded as signifying the Eight Beatitudes.
• The four petals are joined together by four fleur-de-lis, also reminiscent of the Mother Country of France. Each fleur-de-lis has three petals. The twelve petals of the four fleur-de-lis signify the Twelve Apostles.
• An open space in the shape of heart is formed between each fleur-de-lis and the arms of the two petals with which it is joined. This shape — a symbol of loyalty — suggests the seal of the great French Reformer, John Calvin.
• A descending dove pendant representing the Saint Esprit or “Sainted Spirit” — the guide and counselor of the Church — is suspended from a ring of gold attached to the lower central petal.

1,2Francis Schaeffer, The Finished Work of Christ (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 1998) 200–201, 203–204.
3Edmund Clowney, The Message of 1 Peter (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1988) 53.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and other ones at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2021–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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