Future Glory, Rom. 8:18-27
Paul closed the previous section of the text with the statement that, “we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:17). Suffering for the cause of Christ closely identifies us with the Savior. We are not mere spectators who witness the conflict from afar. We are personally invested, both in body and in spirit. Jesus had warned his apostles that unbelievers would persecute them just as they had persecuted him. When the gospel age set in, the “honeymoon” period of the church’s existence quickly passed. The Jews who opposed Jesus soon came to view the church as a threat to their cause. The apostles were warned more than once to cease preaching Jesus, but they carried on. When the first beatings were carried out on them, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (Acts 5:41). In his last inspired letter, Paul wrote, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).
Those who are saved by the grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus realize there is a life of reward beyond this life of suffering (Rev. 2:10). Satan will sorely test us, trying to convince us to live for the here and now. Satan would have us believe that the idea of heavenly reward is not worth suffering persecution. Paul urges us to think the opposite. “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (8:18). The apostle Peter wrote, “However if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Pet. 4:16). The purpose of all creation is to support life for humans, who are created in the very image of God (Gen. 1:27). As Christians struggle and suffer in anticipation of eternal reward, so the creation is depicted as suffering with frustration as well. This world is not meant to last forever, but God’s children will live forever. We are children of God now, but the glorious nature of our future state will not be fully known until Jesus comes back for us (1 John 3:1-2). Then this physical world will crumble and burn, having realized its purpose (2 Pet. 3:10-13).
The physical creation is pictured as a woman who endures labor pains as she anticipates the birth of a child. Jesus used the same illustration of a woman giving birth, stating that “A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world” (John 16:21). The disciples would grieve that Jesus had to die and then depart into heaven for a time, but great rejoicing would accompany his return. When our bodies are transformed to be like Jesus’ glorious body, we will know that our struggle has been worth the effort.
As we struggle through life, sometimes we do not even know how to pray, or what to pray for. The Spirit helps and intercedes for us, expressing our groaning to God. We may not know just what to say, but the Spirit says it for us. The Spirit does not tell us what to say, but relays to God what we ourselves are trying to say, but unable to express. With this revelation, Paul reassures us that God knows just how we feel when we are suffering for Christ. Paul continues to encourage us on our journey through this world of sin and uncertainty. God is with us at all times.
My comments are not an inspired commentary, but rather a few words to draw attention to the background, context, and dynamic situation of the book of Acts. May God bless your reading of His Word. T.C.