Our present suffering and the Glory to come, which we will share in, make up the theme of [Romans 8:18-30]. Godet calls this “a career of suffering”1 for a believer in Christ. Expect it!
“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;” – Philippians 1:29
It is common to interpret this section of Paul’s theology as the voice of comfort [verse 28] instead of—what the context requires—a recognition of, what Godet called, “a state of misery”2 in which all creation shares [verse 22].
There is always a “but” with God in which He shares the blessing following the trial.3 All creation groans along with us, a state of suffering not unnoticed by the Spirit [verse 26], whose intercession is timely and undeniably effective.
Suffering …but Glory to come.
Here’s the “but” [verse 28] —namely the love relation we have with the omnipotent, omniscient God of all creation. The suffering is temporary [verse 18]. The glory is coming! The problem is that we don’t like any suffering. In Peter’s words, “But even if4 you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “ [1 Peter 3:14 NIV] The fact that God (forgetting He thinks in eternal terms) puts a clock on it [Revelation 2:10] is little comfort at times. Yet His Spirit explains, what we now know, having undergone such trying circumstances, that faith is bolstered [1 Peter 1:7]5 which, in turns, leads to a greater and emboldened resolve to witness [James 1:3].6 Patience (in our language “hangin’ in there”) actually accomplishes in us what God wants to perfect in us [James 1:4].7 As Paul explains it here: “It all works for good….” [Romans 8:28].
Thus we begin by announcing that suffering for Christ will always be followed with the most glorious blessings:
Verse 18: To explain, I reckon [reason], that the sufferings we endure now presently [in this life] are not worthy to be compared with [in proportion to] the coming glory that is about to be revealed in [for] us [in which we shall share].
Paul’s choice of words matter:
- Reckon: I judge after calculating.8 Paul never rationalized away suffering but accepting it, gave it its true value in relation to all the blessings of heaven that await us. [Romans 5:3-5].
- Worthy: present sufferings put on the scale (balance) with God’s glory. The word comes from an old term meaning to move the needle of the scale.
- Glory: God’s glory is far weightier. In fact the Hebrew for “glory” means “heavy.” Moses wrote, [Deuteronomy 28:58] “fear this glorious [weighty] and awesome name, THE LORD YOUR GOD.” [This word comes from the idea of weighing silver, the heavier, the more valuable or its worth.]
- Sufferings: Here, sufferings, has to include or encompass all hardships, circumstantial and by evil design as well as all physical pain and misery as well as emotional or mental. The word encompasses the entire gamut of unwelcome feelings and hurt associated with or as a consequence of our witness for Christ.
- If this were not the case, Paul might be suggesting that some forms of suffering were either not compared with the glories of Heaven to come [he left them out as if God might not care?] or, most objectionable, some hardships might be weightier matters (more important or valuable to God and us than heaven!) or somehow outside the preview or purview of an all seeing and loving God. This is clearly not possible! Godet calls our suffering “the actual condition of our earthly life” and he includes “bodily infirmities and the necessities of life.” In other words, all suffering!
- In 2 Corinthians 4:17 Paul referenced the trials that are the result of our witness that, in his words, “for the moment” [verse 16] exhaust us, weary us. These are put on one side of the scale and the prospects of a glorious eternity on the other side. God’s blessings outweigh them!
- Here in Romans, Paul thought—to be fair—we will add to that side of the scale every source of unhappiness, pain, and misery that is a consequence of our faithfulness to God’s Word [Matthew 5:10].
“Romans 8:35, 37-39 NIV 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
It didn’t even move the needle. Even the lightest or smallest, most incidental blessing of God alone would outweigh all the trials and infirmities of this life. I trust we agree with Paul. I’ll shock you: Even if there were no heaven to come, God’s faithfulness, His love and grace, to me in this life, alone, has made serving Him all worth it!
- In us: The word used here for “in” includes the idea of “for” It is a weakness of the English not having the equivalent of the Bible word. In us and for us means “The glory will not consist only in our own transformation [in], but also in the coming of the Lord himself, and the transformation of the universe [for us].
I translate verse 19 freely:
Indeed, the expectation of [God’s whole] creation anticipates [excitedly] the revealing of the sons [children] of God.
I know! I can’t wait, either!
You are not alone!
You never were. [Hebrews 13:5].
2 Ibid. Page 312.
3 compare the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12.
4 Peter writes of suffering in a form called “the optative” which speaks of something possible but not thought probable. Burton calls it a “concession” [Burton, Page 115 section 286: “It is probable that he (Peter) intends to affirm that blessedness comes, not in spite of, but through, suffering for righteousness’ sake.”] See also 1 Peter 3:17.
5 “that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,”
6 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
7 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
8 Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it …Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?