by Mike Ratliff
For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:15-18 ESV)
Religion, if it is worth anything, is worth everything; but it is worth little if it is not worth suffering for. – Matthew Henry
There has been such a long drought of the Word of God being rightly divided by true shepherds of the flock in so much of the visible Church that the spiritually weak and immature believers make up the vast majority. Their understanding of God is not well developed. When suffering comes upon them they react in a complete misinterpretation of what is going on. It is as if they expect everyone to love them and their problems will be over simply because they are now Christians. The Bible is very clear, genuine believers are the ones who endure to the end and they will suffer for Jesus’ sake.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:16-18 ESV)
The verb “bears witness with” is the Greek word, “συμμαρτυρέω.” It is pronounced as soom-mar-too-reh’-o. It is present tense, indicative mood, and active voice. Present indicative asserts something which is occurring while the speaker is making the statement. The Holy Spirit is the one “bearing witness” and all in Christ who are still alive right now are receiving this assurance. What is the message that He is giving us? We are children of God! Ephesians 1:3-14 describes what God has done to make “us” His children. Paul goes on to say that since we are His children then we are also heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Again, this is described for us in Ephesians 1:3-14. However, Paul then tells us the other marker that defines genuine Christians. What is it? Christians’ authenticity is proven if they also suffer with Him.
The word Paul used here for “we suffer with” is “συμπάσχω.” It is pronounced as soom-pas’-kho. It is also in present, indicative, active. Therefore, Paul is describing a truth that genuine Christians will be suffering with Christ as long as they are alive in this present age. Why are we to suffer so? Paul answers, “in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” This suffering is proof of our ultimate glory. This suffering takes many forms. It could be mockery. It could be ridicule. It could also be physical persecution. This suffering comes upon the believer because of Christ.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 ESV)
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18-21 ESV)
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. (2 Timothy 3:12-13 ESV)
There are a lot of fence sitters out there. They profess Christ, but when the world comes against them because of that profession they back away quickly. However, the genuine believer has assurance because the Holy Spirit bears witness with their spirit that they are children of God. Their faith is alive and trusts God is sustaining them. They may be brought low. They may indeed come close to despair, but God is faithful. There is nothing that can come between them and the love of God (Romans 8: 38-39).
This suffering is proof of the Christian’s future glory. The phrase “glorified with him” is one Greek word, “συνδοξάζω.” It is pronounced as soon-dox-ad’-zo. Both “συνδοξάζω” and “συμπάσχω” begin with the Greek word for “together.” In this case Paul is telling us that Christians who suffer with Christ will be glorified with Christ. While “συμπάσχω” is in present, indicative, active, “συνδοξάζω” is not. It is in aorist, subjunctive, passive. What does that mean? All this means is that this verb refers to simple, undefined action that affects the subject passively. In other words, those who suffer will be glorified with Christ. They do not glorify themselves. They suffer with Christ therefore they will be glorified with Christ by God.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 ESV)
My brethren, we need to grasp this truth. Yes, we are called to be humble and to become servants. As we suffer with Christ then we need to look at what awaits us in glory. I am convinced that we walk this walk much better if we have our focus on Christ and the Eschaton. Paul was able to do that and I believe we can too if we will abide in Christ and run this race with our eyes firmly fixed on Christ. Yes, we will suffer with Him and because of Him, but if we have this focus then we will also treasure what awaits us in Heaven far higher than anything we lose here.
Soli Deo Gloria!