“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rm 8:15-18)
The Holy Spirit and Children of God
In Romans 8:15-16, Paul said,
“The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rm 8:15-16)
What sin does to us is it enslaves us and makes us afraid. However, the Holy Spirit gives us confidence by guaranteeing that we’re children of God. Sometimes, when we look at our lives, we don’t feel confidence in our salvation and our acceptance to God because of our failures and mistakes.
Even though we know from the Bible that we become God’s children by believing in Jesus, when we find ourselves failing to live as His children, we lose assurance. However, what the Holy Spirit does in our lives is awaken our souls and remind us of the truth that we’re God’s children even though we might not feel like it.
One of the major roles of the Holy Spirit is to guide us to the truth. There are a lot of names that refer to the Holy Spirit in the Bible and one of them is the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth, and it is only through him that we can realize the truth about God and about ourselves.
One of the most important characteristics of the relationship between parents and children is that their relationship is not based on merit, but on unconditional love.
When we lose confidence of our salvation and our being children of God, we must remind ourselves of the fact that God adopts us not because we deserve it, but because He loves us so much that He sacrificed His one and only Son for us.
The fact that being children of God is based on God’s unconditional love gives us enormous comfort and assurance. Most of the parents in the world would accept their children unconditionally even if they committed unforgivable sins and everyone blamed them.
Likewise, our heavenly Father always embraces us, accepts us, and calls us His children even when we don’t deserve it. That’s the only reason we can go to Him.
This is the truth the Holy Spirit makes us realize. He testifies and guarantees that we are God’s children. That’s why Paul professes, “by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Rom 8:16)
Suffering and Glory
In the next two verses, Paul explains what it means for us to be children of God. He said,
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rm 8:17-18)
Here, Paul clarifies that for us to be God’s children means that we are heirs of God. It means that all the blessings in God are also given to us. As God’s children, we inherit the kingdom of God, the resurrection with Jesus, and eternal life in God. All these things are promised in the Bible. That’s why we believe in Jesus. If there’s no resurrection, eternal life or God’s kingdom after death, there’s no reason to believe in Him.
These are the ultimate blessings we expect to receive on the last day. And, we’ll receive them as promised in the Bible. However, we must also recognize that the Bible doesn’t say that we only receive things that we consider to be good.
Paul said, “We are heirs of God… if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Rom 8:17)
What the Bible reveals about the way to eternal glory is clear. Without joining in Jesus’ suffering, we can’t join in His glory. Just as we can’t join in the resurrection of Jesus without joining in His death, we must go through His suffering to participate in His glory.
Jesus suffered before he was glorified. When Jesus appeared to His two disciples on the way to Emmaus after His resurrection, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself, and said to them,
“Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” (Lk 24:26)
That’s the example we must also follow as His disciples. Peter said,
“If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God… To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1Pt 2:21-22)
By suffering, Jesus bore our sins in his body on the cross so that we could be healed and justified. Likewise, to lead others to the righteousness in Jesus, we should also suffer and sacrifice what we have to some degree.
There are a lot of Bible verses that emphasize believers’ suffering.
Philippians 1:29 says,
“For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him” (Php 1:29)
In Philippians 3:10-11, Paul professed,
“I want to know Christ - yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” (Php 3:10-11)
Paul wrote to believers in the church of Thessalonians who underwent hardships,
“Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering.” (2Th 1:4-5)
Before being executed, Paul wrote to Timothy,
“Do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.” (2Tm 1:8)
From these verses, we know that suffering is one of the essential elements of our faith. It seems like Paul is saying that we can’t believe in Jesus, that we can’t attain the resurrection, that we won’t be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, and that we can’t truly proclaim the gospel without participation in His suffering.
In other words, our present suffering cannot and must not be separate from our future blessings such as the glory of God, resurrection in Jesus, and eternal life in the kingdom of God. So, you might say that suffering is evidence of our genuine faith.
However, that’s not the only thing we can say about suffering and glory. Paul added,
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rm 8:18)
Another truth we must know about suffering and glory is that our present suffering can’t be compared with the eternal glory to come. Instead, suffering must be contrasted with glory.
In second Corinthians, Paul expressed his personal experience and emotions much more than in his other letters. And, in chapter 4, he professed this. This passage is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Let’s read it together.
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2Co 4:16-18)
In this passage, Paul measures suffering and glory on the basis of its period and weight. To Paul, his suffering was ‘light’ and ‘momentary.’ In contrast, the glory which far outweighs the suffering is eternal.
And, it’s wise to invest our lives in things more glorious and permanent even though it requires us to go through hardship. The reason doctors study very hard for a long time is that they can use their knowledge for an extended period and they know that the reward will be great. They willingly spend a lot of time studying because it’s worth it.
Likewise, if we really know what kind of outcome is waiting for us and that our present and momentary suffering achieves for us eternal glory in the kingdom of God, we won’t hesitate to join in Jesus’ suffering, but rather joyfully follow Jesus’ example on earth.
That’s what Peter also wrote in his first letter.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you… But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” (1Pt 4:12-13)
“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” (1Pt 5:10)
One of the characteristics that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is suffering. Even though we live in a country where we can freely worship God and believe in Him, we know that the history of Christianity is one of persecution. Even now, there are many Christians out there who suffer for their faith.
However, suffering is kind of a privilege for Christians because Christian suffering is not normal but one through which we take after Jesus and join in His eternal glory and resurrection. Because we know that suffering is temporary, but glory is forever, we are not afraid of the suffering ahead of us, but joyfully participate in the suffering of Christ.
I hope God opens our eyes and fills our hearts with the hope of His eternal glory, so that we can joyfully participate in Jesus’ suffering in the world.