by Mike Ratliff
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7 ESV)
On top of my own medical issues over the last few weeks our family has also suffered the death of nephew not much younger than my son. My daughter was close to him. She has been having quite a few emotional issues since the start of my problems and then with my nephew’s death right in the middle of it, her emotional strain has really concerned my wife and I. I had a long talk with my wife today about what is going on. I told her that I felt like that man whom the robbers beat and left for dead on the side of road and no one would stop and help him except a Samaritan. Well, the one who has stopped and helped me and is sustaining me through all of this is my Lord Jesus. He is not only sustaining me, He is also opening my spiritual eyes to many things that I was overlooking before. It is as if scales have been peeled away from my eyes. My spiritual orientation has changed as well. That part of me that used to look out for number one seems to have been hacked to pieces. In his place is a deep desire to do whatever my Lord wants any way He wants. This also has changed how I look at my fiery trials in light of eternity.
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)
Suffering is painful. I am not trying to say that is isn’t. However, Paul tells us here that in his economy of reasoning (λογιζομαι) the sufferings (παθηματα) of this present time are not worth (αξια) comparing with the glory (δοξαν) that is to be revealed (αποκαλυφθηναι) to us. The ultimate glory that Christians will receive is so beyond our comprehension that the magnitude of our present sufferings will be insignificant in comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17). I am particularly looking forward to the resurrection of the body (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), but we will also be with our Lord forever. In light of this, how should we then live?
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:19-23 ESV)
19η γαρ αποκαραδοκια της κτισεως την αποκαλυψιν των υιων του θεου απεκδεχεται 20τη γαρ ματαιοτητι η κτισις υπεταγη ουχ εκουσα αλλα δια τον υποταξαντα εφ ελπιδι 21οτι και αυτη η κτισις ελευθερωθησεται απο της δουλειας της φθορας εις την ελευθεριαν της δοξης των τεκνων του θεου 22οιδαμεν γαρ οτι πασα η κτισις συστεναζει και συνωδινει αχρι του νυν 23ου μονον δε αλλα και αυτοι την απαρχην του πνευματος εχοντες [ημεις] και αυτοι εν εαυτοις στεναζομεν υιοθεσιαν απεκδεχομενοι την απολυτρωσιν του σωματος ημων (Romans 8:19-23 WHNU)
In summary, Paul is saying that part of the reason for our sufferings is that creation itself is in bondage to corruption. However, with the coming of the Messiah and the birth of the Church has begun the childbirth process of what is coming. The Church is the first fruits (απαρχην) of the (του) Spirit (πνευματος). What does this mean? Christians already have the first fruits of the Spirit, but we are still in our earthly bodies living in a corrupt and fallen world. The fulfillment of our salvation is our adoption as sons (υιοθεσιαν). At our Justification, God did adopt us into His family, but the fulfillment of this will be the redemption of our bodies in Heaven.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25 ESV)
This simply describes that state God wants us all to be in so that our hope, our focus, is on the eternal rather than the temporal. If we are focused on the fiery trials and suffering all around us as well as the corruption of so-called Christian leaders seemingly falling by the wayside every day, we can become quite discouraged, but when our hope is in the promises made by the one who cannot lie, God, then we will wait for our final redemption with patience. However, as I have found out and as my daughter is finding out right now, we can only do this as we experience the depths of God’s grace. Our Lord sustains us and keeps us during these times. As we let go of more and more of the temporal crutches we have clung to in the past and fall into gentle arms of our Saviour, we are able to be strong in our weaknesses because we are being so in His strength. In this we patiently await the fulfillment of our adoption.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 ESV)
26ωσαυτως δε και το πνευμα συναντιλαμβανεται τη ασθενεια ημων το γαρ τι προσευξωμεθα καθο δει ουκ οιδαμεν αλλα αυτο το πνευμα υπερεντυγχανει στεναγμοις αλαλητοις 27ο δε εραυνων τας καρδιας οιδεν τι το φρονημα του πνευματος οτι κατα θεον εντυγχανει υπερ αγιων 28οιδαμεν δε οτι τοις αγαπωσιν τον θεον παντα συνεργει [ο θεος] εις αγαθον τοις κατα προθεσιν κλητοις ουσιν (Romans 8:26-28 WHNU)
This is a wonderful passage for all who in the midst of a fiery trial. We are often perplexed by why we are having to deal with such things so we pray for understanding. However, like Job, we won’t know the purpose for them this side of eternity. However, I would like to focus on one word in v26, weakness (ασθενεια). This word literally means “without strength.” It is used to refer to weakness or sickness. When we are self-sufficient we can often have a shallow relationship with God’s grace. However, when He allows us to suffer and become dependent on Him then we must have His grace and we find that it is deep and sufficient regardless of how terrible our problems are. In v28 we have a wonderful promise for believers. For those who love God, all things work together for good because they are called according to His purpose.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:29-39 ESV)
God’s purpose for His children is well mapped out. He predestined, called, justified, and glorified them all. These parts of our salvation were carefully carried out by our Lord and since this is so, will He give any of them up? Will He allow anything to come between them and Him? No! Our salvation is sealed in Christ. Look at the list of terrible things that we dread, but not one of them can come between us and the love of Christ. In all of these terrible things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Not one thing that can even take our lives can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria!