Romans 8:18 The Incomparable Glory


From time to time we will come to thoughts in Scripture that we know we shall never fully understand, at least not until we get to heaven. Glory is one of them. I call it “incomparable,” not only because it resists comparison with anything we know in this life, particularly suffering, which is the contrast found in our text, but because glory is truly beyond our comprehension. At best we only have an intimation of it. And yet, the greatest word for what is in store for God’s people is glory. Our text says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

The first thing the Bible adds to our understanding is that we long for glory because we once enjoyed it. We once enjoyed glory as a race – in Adam. Adam was made “in the image of God” (Gen 1:26-27), which means that man at the beginning had a kind of glory. He was like God, and he may even have been clothed with the splendor of God like a garment. But man today is a disgrace compared to what he once was. He is a fallen being and well described by the biblical name “Ichabod,” meaning “no glory” because “the glory [had] departed from Israel” (1 Sam. 4:21). As far as man is concerned, the glory had departed from his body, his soul, and his spirit.

We enjoyed glory once though, which is why we long for it so much. But it is gone, gone with the wind. What a marvelous thing it is then, when we turn to the Bible, to find that the end of our salvation in Christ is not merely deliverance from sin and evil and their consequences, but glorification. God is restoring to us all that our first parents lost. This is what Paul is beginning to deal with here in Romans, which brings us to our text. But soon as we turn to that text and try to place it in its context, we notice that something greater even than restoration of Adam and Eve’s lost glory is involved. As we read on in Romans 8 we find that we are to have an enjoyment of God and participation in God that surpasses Adam’s.

All this brings us directly to the text. For in Romans 8:18 Paul is comparing the future glory to be enjoyed by God’s people to their present suffering, but saying that the glory far outstrips their suffering. That’s obvious isn’t it? For if the glory we are to enjoy is to exceed even that minimal glory enjoyed by Adam, it is certain that it will exceed the trials we are enduring now.

Finally, if we can appreciate what Paul is saying in this text and get it fixed in our minds, we will find it able to change the way we look at life and the way we live – more than anything else we can imagine. It will provide two things at least: (1) Vision. Focusing on the promise of glory will give us a vision of life in its eternal context, which means that we will begin to see life here as it really is; that is, we need to emerge from the darkness into God’s light. (2) Endurance. Breaking the spell of the evil enchantment of worldliness which has been laid upon us will give us strength to endure whatever hardships, temptations, persecutions, or physical suffering it pleases God to send us. Suppose there were no glory. Suppose this life really were all there is. If that were the case, I for one would not endure anything, at least nothing I could avoid. But knowing that there is an eternal weight of glory, I will try to do what pleases God and hang on in spite of anything.

Verse 18 has one more word we need to examine; it is the word “consider.” It is the process by which we figure something out. We are dealing with God’s real world, and we are instructed to think this out clearly. Paul writes “I consider that…” meaning that he has thought it through and concluded that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” By using this word he invites us to think it through also. If you are a Christian, I ask, “Isn’t what the apostle says in this verse true? Isn’t the glory to come worth anything you might be asked to face here, however painful or distressing?” If you know that you are part of heaven’s citizenry, you will endure – and say with the hymn writer, “yet how rich is my condition.”

Romans 8:18 Reflection Questions:

What is “the glory that is going to be unveiled for us” depicted in verse 18?

What is it you look towards when you are going through a time of suffering?

When going through suffering do you say “yet how rich is my condition?”

Romans 8:17 The Inheritance of God’s Saints


Romans 8:17 introduces us to two important biblical ideas: suffering and glory. The verse begins with the glory, talks about suffering, and ends with glory again. The first statement is that children of God are God’s heirs and co-heirs with Jesus Christ. What a marvelous thing this is, to be an heir of God Himself!

So what does our inheritance consist? What will believers actually possess in heaven? There are a number of things that can be called “lesser items,” and then there is the greatest prize of all. (1) A heavenly home. The first thing that comes to mind here is the promise of a heavenly home that Jesus made to His disciples just before His arrest and crucifixion (John 14:1-3). This is a place prepared especially for all believers, and it is guaranteed by no less an authority than the Lord of glory Himself, Jesus Christ. (2) A heavenly banquet. In several of His parables Jesus spoke of a heavenly banquet to which His own are invited (see Matt. 22:1-14; 25:1-13, Luke 14:15-24; 15:11-32). These stories present our inheritance as joy and secure fellowship. (3) Rule with Christ. Another feature of our inheritance is that we will rule with Jesus in His kingdom. (4) Likeness to Christ. One of the promised blessings is that we will be made like Jesus Himself. John writes about it in his first letter (1 John 3:1-2). It’s hard to imagine a greater inheritance than to be made like the Lord Jesus Christ in all His attributes.

So why would we call those four items “lesser”? It’s because of the amazing and infinitely greater blessing that awaits us as “heirs of God.” Paul speaks of our being “co-heirs with Christ” in verse 17. That is, we inherit whatever we do inherit along with Him. But as soon as we ask, “What does Jesus inherit?” all items mentioned earlier don’t seem to fit. The only thing that can properly be said to be His inheritance is the Father. This is what He had in mind in His great prayer just before His crucifixion (John 17:4-5). Christ’s inheritance is the glory of God, which means the vision or, participation in, and enjoyment of God Himself. This is exactly the flow of thought in Romans 8:17. For having spoken of our being heirs and having reminded us that we must enter into our possession by the gate of suffering, Paul ends us again with glory, reminding us that “we may also share in His [Christ’s] glory,” which is the glory of God.

You may ask yourself; why does Paul drag the subject of suffering in at this point? Paul was a realist, more than that, as an evangelist and a pastor, he knew that the people to whom he was writing were suffering. The early ministers of the gospel began to suffer for the gospel as soon as they began to obey Christ’s Great Commission. In fact if we were to read the New Testament with suffering in mind, you would be startled to discover how extensively it is mentioned. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33b). Most of the New Testament epistles have important discussions about suffering.

Suffering is as common to God’s people today as in New Testament times. We need to understand that. It’s true that most of us do not experience that special kind of suffering we call persecution, though our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world do. But we know suffering. We suffer when we lose a spouse or other family member through death. We groan under pain, trauma, and sickness. We are hurt by prejudice, poverty, or sometimes a lack of rewarding work. The list is endless. Realism and pastoral concern undoubtedly caused the apostle to introduce this subject. Honesty didn’t allow him to talk about our inheritance without at the same time acknowledging that the path to glory involves a cross.

This brings us to the value of suffering according to a right theological framework or life-view. It has several important values, and the first is the chief reason Paul mentions it in Romans: He has been talking of Christians being son and daughters of God; now he speaks of suffering as proof of that relationship, though the suffering may be in any of three different forms, each with a particular purpose. (1) Persecution: Some suffering is in the form of persecution and one value of persecution is that it proves to us that we really are children of God. Jesus taught this many times (Matt. 5:11-12; John 15:18-20). (2) Purification: Not all suffering is in the form of persecution, however. Some of it is from God and is for no other reason than to produce growth and holiness. (3) Training: A third kind of suffering also has value for Christians and can be likened to the suffering endured when a soldier is trained for combat by his commanding officer, or for that matter, the suffering endured in the battle itself.

The second value of suffering is that our witness to Christ is empowered by it. This means that the witness of Christians carries particular weight when it is given under duress, when it is evident to everyone that it would be easier and apparently more rational to back off from one’s witness or even, as Job was advised by his wife, to “curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).

The final thing we need to say about the value of suffering is that it is the ordained path to glory. Paul says this explicitly in verse 17; he also says this in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18. There are two basic things to remember about suffering. First, suffering is necessary. Jesus taught that it was necessary for Himself when He said to the Emmaus disciples, “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?” (Luke 24:26).Then He proved that this was necessary by showing it to them in the Scriptures. Jesus taught that suffering is necessary for us when He said, “If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20b) and “In the world you shall have tribulation” (John 16:33a).

Second, although suffering is necessary (and has value), suffering is not the end of the story for Christians. Glory is. Since it’s not the end, since suffering is the path to glory, Christianity is a religion of genuine hope and effective consolation. The Christian who needs to worry about suffering is not the one who is suffering, particularly if it is for the sake of Jesus Christ. The person who should worry is the one who is not suffering, since suffering is a proof of our sonship, a means for the spreading the gospel, and the path to glory.

So let’s hang in there! And let’s encourage one another as we run the race and fight the long battles. We need each other, but we have each other. That is what we are given to each other for. Thus by the grace of God, we may actually come to the end of the warfare and be able to say as Paul did to young Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8) May it be so for all God’s people!

Romans 8:17 Reflection Questions:

Paul begins this section (vv. 12-17) by saying that we are in debt, no to the “flesh” but to God. We have to live in a particular way, a way which anticipates the “glory,” the rule over creation, which we will eventually share with the Messiah. How can you live this week in the specific knowledge of being in debt to God?

Sit in silence, giving thanks and praise for being in debt not to sin and death but too God. Then offer short prayers of thanksgiving, giving glory to God for adopting us as His children.

Romans 8:15-16 No Longer Slaves But Sons


We are continuing to study the section of Romans 8 in which Paul introduces the thought of Christians being members of God’s family. Paul’s development of this idea makes verses 14-17 among the most important in the chapter. It’s important to see how they fit in. Remember that the apostle’s overall theme in Romans 8 is assurance, the doctrine that Christians can know that they truly are Christians and that, because they are, nothing will ever separate them from the love of God. The chapter has not been written to make uncertain of our salvation, but to give assurance of it, and that is where these verses come in. They give multiple and connecting reasons, one in each of the four verses, why the child of God can know that he or she really is a member of God’s family. We looked at the first of these proofs in the previous study. We will look at the fourth in the next study. In this study we will look at proofs two and three, adoption and the witness of the Spirit with our spirits, which belong together.

We begin with verse 15, the chief idea in this verse, which is also a new idea, is “adoption.” Adoption is the procedure by which a person is taken from one family (or no family) and placed in another. In this context, it refers to removing a person from the family of Adam (or Satan) and placing him or her in the family of God. Adoption is related to regeneration, or the new birth, but they are not the same thing. Regeneration has to do with our receiving a new life or new nature. Adoption has to do with our receiving a new status.

In Romans, Paul has been talking about the Christian’s former state – in which, being in Adam, we were enslaved to sin – and he has argued that we have been delivered from that former bondage by the Holy Spirit. Now he adds that this new state, which conveys freedom from bondage, also contains the privileges of sonship. Paul took the idea of adoption from Greek and Roman law, probably for two reasons. First, he is writing to Greeks and Romans (in this case to members of the church at Rome), so adoption, being part of their culture, was something they would all very readily understand. Second, the word was useful to him because it signified being granted the full rights and privileges of sonship in a family to which one does not belong by nature. That is exactly what happens to believers in salvation.

I have spoken of adoption as giving the adopted one a new status. But “new status” may not be the best description of what happens. What is really involved is a set of new relationships – new relationships to other people, both believers and unbelievers, but above all a new relationship to God. When we speak of salvation as justification, we are thinking of God as Judge. This is a remote and somewhat grim relationship. When we think of regeneration, we are thinking of God as Creator. That too, is remote. But when we think of adoption, we are thinking of God as our Father, which denotes a far closer relationship. This is why the apostle says that the Spirit of adoption causes us to cry out, “Abba, Father.”

It’s important to recognize that our authority to call God “Father” goes back to Jesus Christ. It goes back to no less important a statement than the opening phrases of the Lord’s Prayer, which begins, “Our Father in heaven…” (Matt. 6:9). Today we take the right to call God “our Father” for granted, but we need to understand how new and startlingly original this must have been for Christ’s contemporaries. No Old Testament Jew ever addressed God directly as “my Father.” What does Abba mean specifically? The Talmud says that when a child is weaned “it learns to say abba and imma” (that is, “daddy” and “mommy”). So this is what abba really means: daddy. To a Jewish mind a prayer addressing God as daddy would not only have been improper, it would have been irreverent to the highest degree. Yet this is what Jesus said in His prayers, and it quite naturally stuck in the minds of the disciples. It was something very unique when Jesus taught His disciples to call God “Daddy.”

Verse 16 gives another reason for knowing we are in God’s family. It says, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” There is no question what the two “spirits” refer to in this verse. The first is the Holy Spirit. The second is our human spirit. Verse 16 concerns the Holy Spirit’s witness, which is separate from our own. But what is this witness? How is it separate from what Paul has already said?

Have you ever had an overwhelming sense of God’s presence? Or have you at some point, perhaps at many points in your life, been aware that God has come upon you in a special way and that there is no doubt whatever that what you are experiencing is from God? You may have been moved to tears. You may have deeply felt some other sign of God’s presence, by which you were certainly moved to a greater and more wonderful love for Him. This has been a very common experience in revivals.

If this idea is foreign to you or it seems dangerous, perhaps you are not ready for it at this point. Let it go. You have plenty to occupy yourself with in what has already been taught in verses 14 and 15. But if you have had any of these intensely spiritual moments, perhaps in your quiet times or while sitting in a church service, thank God for them. Know that they do not replace any other things we have studied. The Bible is primary. But rejoice that God also has a way of making Himself so real to us that we are actually lifted up, even in hard times, and are assured by that spiritual whisper of divine love that we are and always will be God’s children.

Romans 8:15-16 Reflection Questions:

Paul explains that the Christian discovers a new identity, picking up Israel’s vocation in the Old Testament: adoption. How is adoption a wonderful image for the work of God in the lives of believers?

These verses take us into territory where we have been before in Romans. Paul begins to echo the story of the exodus in which the nation of Israel traveled out of slavery in Egypt, was led by God through the wilderness, became tempted to return to Egypt when things got hard but ultimately moved toward the Promised Land. How is the book of Exodus glimpsed in verses 12-17?

Romans 8:12-14 Sanctification and the Family of God


In verses 12-13 Paul is talking about our obligation to do the right thing as Christian people, and he is implying as Christians, we not only have an obligation to live a holy life, doing the right things, but also the ability to live rightly. In fact, the obligation and the ability are both grounded in the fact that we are Christians. So, what is the proper approach to sanctification (to be set apart)? How are Christians to achieve victory over sin and grow in holiness? Paul gives the one and only adequate answer in these verses.

In some ways the most important word in verses 12 and 13 is the first, the word “therefore.” It points to what the apostle has just said. Paul is arguing that Christians “have an obligation” to live according to the Holy Spirit, rather than according to the sinful nature. And the reason for this, which he has just stated, is that the Holy Spirit has joined them to Jesus Christ so that: (1) they have been delivered from the wrath of God against them for their sin and been brought into an entirely new realm, the sphere of God’s rule in Christ; (2) they have been given a new nature, being made alive to spiritual things to which they were previously dead; and (3) they have been assured of an entirely new destiny in which not only will they live with God forever, but even their physical bodies will be resurrected. These are things God has done (or will do) for us. We have not done them for ourselves; indeed, we could not have. But, says Paul, because God has done them for us, “we have an obligation” to live like God has lived. We must – it is imperative – live for Him.

Everything that we have seen in Romans 8 up to this point has been a general description of the Christian: his status, present experience, character, and future expectation. Now for the first time, Paul draws a specific conclusion, saying that the work of God for us and in us presents us with a serious obligation. It is to live for God and not according to our sinful natures.

Again, what Paul is saying here in verses 12-13 is that if you live like a non-Christian, dominated by your sinful nature rather than living according to the Holy Spirit, you will perish like a non-Christian – because you are a non-Christian. “If you live according to the sinful nature, you will die.” On the other hand, if you really are a Christian, you will not live according to the sinful nature. Instead you will acknowledge what you actually are in Jesus Christ and live accordingly.

We have seen that as we work our way through Romans 8, Paul isn’t teaching anything new here but instead reinforcing what he already stated. The general theme is assurance of salvation, but that doctrine was laid out in chapter 5, and chapters 6 and 7 were a digression to answer several important questions growing out of chapter 5, after which the apostle picked up where he left off earlier. But now we find something new when we come to Romans 8:14. This verse tells us that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and here the idea that we are “sons of God” appears in Romans for the first time. Verse 14 is one of those amazing verses, found often in the Bible, which is literally loaded with important teachings. We will study five of them.

The first point is a negative one: Not everyone is a member of God’s family. When Paul writes of “those who are led by the Spirit of God,” he is distinguishing between those who are led by the Spirit and those who are not led by the Spirit, which means that only a portion of humanity are God’s spiritual children. The clearest statement of this important truth is from the mouth of Jesus Christ in John 8:31-47. In those words Jesus made clear that there are two families and two fatherhoods, and that only those who love and serve God are God’s children.

This leads to the second important teaching of this verse. In fact, it is the main one: All Christians are members of God’s family. This involves a change that is radical, supernatural, and far-reaching. To become a child of God means that the individual has experienced the most radical or profound change possible. This is because, before a person becomes a child of God, he or she is not a member of God’s family but is a member of the devil’s family. It means to be delivered from sin and its judgment, to be growing in holiness, and to possess eternal life. The change is radical as passing from a state of slavery to freedom or from death to life. This change is not only radical; it’s supernatural too, which means that it is done for us from above by God. The point that it is far-reaching will be developed more as we proceed through this section, but it is important to say here that the end of this spiritual rebirth is not only deliverance from sin’s judgment – or, as many in our day seem to think, happiness now – but glorification.

So what is the practical result of this important change that has happened to us? What does being a Christian mean in one’s daily life? Here is where verse 14 provides us a third important doctrine: To be a Christian means to be led by God’s Spirit. Because our change of status has been accomplished by the Holy Spirit, who lives within every genuine Christian, being a Christian also means that we will be led by that same Spirit. In other words, it means that we will be growing in holiness increasingly. This is the way verse 14 is tied to verse 13.

The fourth important teaching in this verse tells us how we can know we are in God’s family. We are in God’s family if the Spirit of God is leading us in our daily lives. This is another way of saying that those who are Christians will necessarily live accordingly. They are on the path of discipleship. Therefore, although they may fall while walking along that path, they also inevitably get up again and go forward. They grow in holiness.

The big question still remains: How does the Holy Spirit lead us? The place to start is by recognizing that the Holy Spirit works within us or, as we might say, “internally.” Everything in the passage indicates this. So what does the Holy Spirit do internally in Christians to lead them? Let’s review three things: (1) He renews our minds. This first area in which the Holy Spirit works is the intellect, and He does this by what Paul will later call “the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12). The person who discovers, tests, and approves what God’s pleasing and perfect will is obviously is being led by God, is the mind’s renewal. How, then, are our minds to be renewed? There is only one way. It is by our reading and being taught by the Spirit from the Bible. (2) He stirs the heart. Figuratively, the heart is the seat of the emotions, and the Holy Spirit works upon it by stirring or quickening the heart to love God. Ask yourself: Do you try to please God? Do you want to spend time with Him through studying the Bible and praying? Do you seek His favor? Are you concerned for His glory? (3) He directs our wills. Just as the Spirit leads us by renewing our minds and stirring our hearts or affections, so also He leads us by redirecting and strengthening our wills. Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2:12-13. God gives us a singleness of purpose – to do His will. It is the way God works. Has your will been redirected in that way? When you look deep inside, do you find that you really want to serve God and act accordingly to His good purpose? God does not force you to be godly against your will. He changes your will by the new birth so that what you despised before you now love, and what you were indifferent to before you now find desirable.

There is one more important teaching in this potent verse, and it comes from the fact that the words we are dealing with are plural: “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Therefore: Those led by the Spirit of God are our true brothers and sisters. We are part of the same divine family. There are many differences between believers within the church of Jesus Christ. They have led to divisions in the church, for not all divisions are doctrinal. This should not be, for the text teaches that what makes other believers our brothers or sisters in Christ is not what denomination or movement they belong to, but whether or not they are being led by God’s Spirit. Anyone for whom that is true is our brother or sister in Christ, and we should recognize it and be willing to work with that person to fulfill God’s purposes.

Romans 8:12-14 Reflection Questions:

One of the most terrible things about debt is that it dominates your mind. Whatever else you might be going to think of, or plan or hope for, the fact that you’re in debt determines the way you see the world. So, why does Paul so dramatically begin by saying that we have an obligation or are in debt?

What are the privileges of being “led by the Spirit”?

How has the Holy Spirit spoken to you through this study so far?