“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.”
Heirs with Him, sufferers with Him, glorified with Him.
It’s fairly easy for us to think we are heirs of whatever God has in mind for us (see 4:13, 16) and the promises of Abraham, expanded by Paul from Canaan to “the world.” Note 8:18-21.
Those of faith are heirs but 8:17 says Christ too is an “heir”. Jesus Christ is the man GOD is being but it’s critically important that we remember that He is the MAN God is being. He’s one of us. What God’s law/will for us couldn’t bring about because of our moral/spiritual corruptness (5:6-8) God accomplished by sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh (humanity)—8:3; John 1:14; Hebrews 2:10-14.
Romans 5:20-21 provoked the need for Paul to defend his gospel and its relation to the law/will of God (6:1-2) and the discussion goes all the way through to 8:13. At that point he returns to the Abrahamic promises (4:1—5:2) as they are fulfilled in the Lord Jesus (note 5:17, 19, 21). Note the words “glory” and “reigning” and “tribulation”.
Well, that’s all very well, in Adam we inherit sin and death and in Jesus we inherit forgiveness and life, but where’s the glory? It’s coming, in its fullness. Yes, that sounds like “fine print” that undermines the reality promised. If glory is “in Christ” those who have trusted themselves ought to have it now. Where is the glory that’s promised?
We inherit and reign with Him if we are “in Him” and are one with Him (8:17). He is not only the author and guarantee of life and glory He is the way, the model, of how it comes about! This entire section 8:17-39 is part of a theology of suffering that multiplied millions never earned in a world they didn’t build. But it deals particularly with the mission and destiny of the Church.
8:28-29 says all things work together for the good for the called who love God, “for whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren…”
The section is not saying Jesus was kind, compassionate, righteous and more—of course He was/is all that. That’s not the point here. God eternally purposed a People (the Church) who would image the Lord Jesus in His suffering and the glory that followed (see 1 Peter 1:11; Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Matthew 16:21-23; Acts 17:2-3, passim).
He came into the world to share the suffering of the world, to weep and hurt, to anguish over their disease, to take on His heart their illnesses and destroy Death(Matthew 8:16-17; Heb. 2:14) and experience the injustice they lived under—He wanted to be our brother and wasn’t ashamed of that (Hebrews 2:10-11; 11:16). He modeled life lived for God in a world that has experienced a cosmic moral wreck (1 Peter 2:21; 2 Corinthians 5:15; Ephesians 5:1-2).
He saw their weariness and watched the powerful humiliate them and enslave them, He saw religion that should have lifted their hearts and given them assurance become chains that bound them and further wearied them. He denounced and damned all that but He did more, He chose to share it. He didn’t worship pain! He didn’t shrug at injustice and oppression, He came to expose and destroy it! This is what the Church is called to be and do—image Jesus Christ. Jesus is not the firstborn alone! He wouldn’t have it that way! He chose to be the firstborn among many sisters and brothers! He wouldn’t distance Himself from us; He was GOD with us! Living with us amid the ruins!
So we aren’t getting our rights, so we’re suffering injustice, so our prayers aren’t being answered how and when we think they should be. So we’re sharing the world’s cancers, heart diseases, broken marriages, humiliation, loneliness, confusion, so we wrestle with drives we never invited into our lives and can’t yet get rid of them—so we don’t get exemption from the crushing experiences of the human condition. Should we shrug at all that as if it were nothing? He didn’t! Look at Jesus! Dear God, look at Him! Does He look or speak as if such things don’t matter to Him? Was He sadist or masochist? Did He act like that?
Romans 8:31-39 says nothing we see, hear or experience proves God doesn’t care! Nothing! Over against all the horrors, the agony, and anguish, over against all the unanswered questions and the hard religion and theology that arms itself with verses from here and there—over against all that stands Jesus Christ and beside Him men and women, girls and boys who have been called to be conformed to image Him that He might be the preeminent One among many fellow-heirs.
The current suffering is not worthy to be compared
to the glory to come. (8:18)
(Holy and Compassionate Father, you know how hard it is for the real sufferers to believe you care. For them life is savage! But if you are really imaged in Jesus Christ we trust you because He trusted you and we wish to image Him as He images you. Help us to believe that our share in their sufferings plays a part in glorifying Jesus. We’re profoundly glad that you will judge the world in fairness and righteousness in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus and we think noble things of you. In the name of Christ and for the sake of the plundered poor whose brother He is we pray.)