ROMANS 5 - 8

Romans 8:18-39:
The sufferings of this present time and the glory of the coming age

by Thomas W. Finley

The revealing of the sons of God (8:18-19)

● Rom. 8:18-19. These two verses present some significant truths in a brief fashion. Verse 18 begins with “for,” showing it is a continuation of the line of thought in something just stated. Actually, it is specifically picking up on two thoughts Paul put forth in the last half of verse 17. These two thoughts are “suffering” and being “glorified with Him.” When Paul speaks of suffering in verse 18, he speaks of “the sufferings of this present time.” By using this term, Paul seems to expand the scope of suffering noted in verse 17. Although verse 18 directly connects suffering with glory, as does verse 17, the language in 18 does not limit the suffering to “suffering with Him.” In verse 17, the suffering is limited to “suffering with Him” (suffering due to following Christ in obedience). The phrase “sufferings of this present time” would seem to include other types of suffering which are not strictly produced by our Christian obedience. For example, all people of this age can suffer in various ways, such as suffering from poverty, illness, dealing with difficult family members or co-workers, war, accidents, natural disasters, tragedies, the various sufferings of everyday life, etc. Importantly, however, we must recognize that all suffering situations present spiritual opportunities for us to learn obedience and to mature in the Lord (2 Cor. 12:9-10; Rom. 5:4-5; Jas. 1:2-4; Heb. 5:8). That is why, it seems, that Paul has connected the broad scope of suffering with future glory. The apostle encourages us that all suffering now cannot be compared to the future “glory that is to be revealed in us” (in us is probably a better translation than “to us”). Also, the whole creation, now suffering under the curse, longs for the “revealing of the sons of God.”

It seems proper here to connect three phrases in verses 17, 18, and 19 for our understanding: 1) “we may also be glorified with Him;” 2) “the glory that is to be revealed in us;” 3) “the revealing of the sons of God.” These three phrases are all describing the same thing that Paul is laying out in these verses. The obedient Christians, who are willing to follow Christ in suffering and obedience, will be “glorified with Him” – that is, they will be fellow heirs with Him, rulers with Him, in His coming 1,000 year kingdom. This glorification is the one that “is to be revealed in us,” where “us” here means those who are glorified as the fellow heirs of Christ. These are ones who allow the sufferings of this present time to produce a weight of glory in their lives (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18). This future glorification, belonging especially to the next age of the 1,000 year kingdom, is something that the creation is eagerly awaiting. The creation is awaiting the rule of Christ and his fellow heirs. This glorification is “the revealing of the sons of God.” In context, the “sons of God” would be those who are submissive to leading of the Spirit of God (v. 14). These are believers who are willing to go along with the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and their mature status will be revealed in the coming age – “the revealing of the sons of God.” Paul has now moved on in his line of writing to contrast two ages, the present age and the coming kingdom age. In this view of two ages, he is assuring us that all suffering can be beneficial for us, preparing us for glory in the future age. The concept of the benefits of suffering in the present is implied again in 8:28 (“God causes all things to work together for good”) and in 8:35-39, where we are assured that no circumstance in this life can separate us from the love of God.

The liberation of the creation and the freedom of the glory of the children of God (8:20-21)

● In these verses Paul continues to speak of the coming age. His focus in these verses is the liberation of the creation, which has been laboring under the curse with the effects of sin and death. God has subjected the creation now to futility and corruption due to the entry of sin into the world, but there remains a hope that it will one day be set free. Indeed, the creation will be set free from the corrupting effects of sin in the coming age. This freedom will correspond with the “freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Here, Paul speaks of the freedom that belongs to the glory of the children of God. This is freedom from the power and presence of sin, just as the creation will be released from the effects of sin. This glory differs from the glory in verses 17 and 18. This is not a glory marked by fellow heirship and rulership over creation, but one marked by freedom from sin. It is a glory that all “children of God” will share (note the term differs from mature “sons of God”). This glory is the glorification of the bodies of believers, their bodies being transformed into a body of glory, like Christ’s body, with the removal of sin (1 Cor. 15:42-43; Phil. 3:20-21).

In hope we await the redemption of our bodies (8:22-25)

● Not only does creation groan and suffer now until the time of freedom from corruption, but we also groan within, waiting for the redemption of our bodies. This redemption of our bodies is considered the consummation of the process of sonship, being placed as a son. When our bodies are redeemed, removing the presence of sin, then we will enjoy the fullness of the Spirit that we now know only as a taste of first fruits. This foretaste is a taste of the Spirit’s work in us to sanctify us from the power of sin (8:2-6; 11-13). In hope we are waiting to be “saved,” to be finally delivered, from this body of sin. This hope helps us persevere in the midst of the sufferings of this age.

The Spirit’s help in prayer (8:26-27)

● As hope helps us (v. 24-25), so does the Spirit. Often in the distresses and perplexities of life we do not know how to pray. Yet, the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness of not knowing how to pray. The Spirit helps us by interceding for us, not with words that we speak, but with His compassionate groaning for us that cannot be uttered. And God knows what the mind of the Spirit is as He groans for us in accordance with God’s will.

The certainty of God’s purpose worked out in our lives (8:28-30)

● Rom. 8:28 is a verse known by most all believers. Regardless of what happens in our lives, God causes all happenings and circumstances to work together for good (for the benefit of) those who love God. Some Bible teachers teach that “those who love God” refers only to faithful believers, taking verses like Jn. 14:15 as their proof. However, this interpretation fails the test of the grammar here. In verse 28, “to those who love God” is exactly parallel “to those who are called according to His purpose.” It is the same group of people. This same group is then further described in the next two verses as those whom He foreknew, predestined, called, justified and glorified. This must be all believers, those called through gospel for the purpose of being conformed to the image of His Son. Scripture does support the position that all believers love God, although they may not always live accordingly (1 Pet. 1:8). This mention of “all things” primarily refers back to “the suffering of this age” in verse 18, although “all things” cannot be strictly limited to these sufferings. The underlying theme of most of the Scripture between verse 18 and 28 touches the sufferings in this world, caused by the damage of sin. Verse 28 does not say that all things are good. Many things in our lives can be bad, or seem bad – caused by evil, or marked by pain or tragedy. Yet, our wise Father is able to take all the circumstances in our lives, no matter how caused, how tragic, or how painful, and use them to further His purpose in our lives – to conform us to the image of His Son. This purpose, and perhaps the alignment of our will to pursue this purpose, is the “good” toward which God works all things. God’s working of all things for this purpose is a truth that is affirmed by Eph. 1:11: “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose [His ultimate plan for believers’ lives] who works all things after the counsel [His determined plan for human history] of His will [His heart’s desire].” Even though man has a free will, and even though sin has entered the world as a damaging force, God is still sovereign over all events, and is wisely working out the events of history, even all things, to move forward His purpose in the lives of His saints.

Briefly consider Jacob, whose life typifies the believer’s life under the transforming work of God. He encountered one trouble after another during his life. In his later years, when undergoing the stress of seemingly losing his sons, the Scripture records: “Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me’" (Gen. 42:36). In saying this, Jacob demonstrated his lack of faith in God’s hand upon his life and God’s good intentions toward him. Then, later still when he met Pharaoh, the Bible records: “So Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life” (Gen. 47:9). To Jacob, at this point, all of life seemed just like an endless round of troubles with no purpose to it. Yet, later on, when he could see how things turned out, and he could understand more of God’s ways, he stated this very near the end of his life: “He blessed Joseph, and said, ‘The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day’” (Gen. 48:15). Spiritually speaking, he finally realized that God’s hand had always been upon his life, with the best motives and intentions for his welfare, just as a shepherd cares for a sheep of the flock.

The truth of God “causing all things to work together for good” in our lives may seem hard to grasp, but we must grasp it firmly by faith in God and His word. This truth will then prove to be a reassurance to us in times of trouble.

● Rom. 8:29. This verse continues to describe God’s action in the lives of His children for His purpose for them. “He foreknew” means that before the world was created God knew us as individuals and chose to have an intimate relationship with us. “He also predestined” means that God made a decision to carry out His plan for our lives. That plan, His purpose (v. 28) for each of us, is that eventually we would be conformed to the image of His Son, having the character of Christ formed in us. This conformation means that in the future, after the return of Christ, we will eventually be glorified, expressing Christ in our person. The final result is that we will be seen as God’s sons in God’s family, expressing God’s life in glory. We will be part of “many brethren” in God’s family, alongside Christ, who will have the place of “first-born,” which means He has the preeminence above all the many brethren.

● Rom. 8:30. “He also called.” Whereas God’s foreknowing of us and predestination of us took place before the foundation of the world, His “calling” of us takes place in time. God actually came to us individually and called us to Himself. This is termed by Bible teachers as God’s “effectual call” to salvation. It is effectual because He prepared us for that point in time in our lives, and His Spirit’s illumination of the gospel made it both real and seemingly irresistible. Thus, the gospel message was so attractive to us that our will was drawn to accept God’s call to salvation (2 Thess. 2:14). “He also justified” points to that moment in time when we placed our faith in Jesus and God justified us, declaring us righteous (Rom. 4:4). “He also glorified.” Although our actual glorification is yet future (1 Cor.15:43; 51-52; 2 Thess. 1:10; Phil. 3:20-21; Col. 3:4), the certainty of it is so absolute that the past tense for “glorified” is used here. In this verse, God sees His actions of salvation as already completed for His chosen believers in Christ. Rom. 8:28-30 present an unbreakable and certain chain of events which govern the lives of every one of His believers in Christ! A careful reading of these verses reveals that “those” who are called are the same exact ones who are eventually glorified. Not one is lost along this path. God’s purpose to conform us to the image of His Son is our certain destiny!

God is for us (8:31-39)

● “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31) “These things” would refer specifically to the actions of God in verses 28-30, guaranteeing the outcome of His purpose in our lives. No one can be against us to defeat God’s plan for our lives!

● 8:32. To remind us of how much God is for us, we are told that God delivered His own Son to die for us. So, how shall not God also supply us with all things that we need, things for our spiritual advancement, as well as things for our human needs.

● 8:32-33. These verses simply state that our justification before God is permanent and unchangeable. No one can bring a charge of guilt against us, God’s elect, since God Himself is the One who justifies us. No one can condemn us. Christ has died for our sins, and He has been raised as evidence of our justification (Rom. 4:25). He also stands as our Advocate before God the Father if we sin, interceding on our behalf (1 Jn. 2:1-2).

● 8:35-39. “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” (8:35) In the preceding verses the Scripture assures us that our righteous standing with God and our ultimate place as sons in His family is safe and certain. Now the Word of God assures that nothing can assail us in this life that can separate us from the love of Christ. The thought of “who will separate us” could point to the evil intentions of the devil and of ungodly persons who are spurred by him to persecute the saints of God. This section is not limited to sufferings from persecution, but there are references here to persecution for the faith. Verse 36 quotes Ps. 44:22, where the saints of God are considered to be as sheep to be slaughtered simply because they belong to God. Paul encourages us that even in the worst of circumstances we can be more than conquerors “through Him who loved us.” This word is a reminder that God has already demonstrated “His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8). Therefore, no “sufferings of this present time,” or any other thing, can be successful in separating us from such a love. We must stand upon this truth when we are suffering! We must proclaim that God is for us, and His love is with us! With confidence in God’s heart towards us, we stand assured that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ Seekers of Christ

And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jer. 29:13, NASB)