In some ways the story of the bible is the story of how God moves from what is good, even very good (Gen1) to what is utterly glorious.
How can you improve on a good work of God?
Not so much that God improves on a good work of God or that there are faults in Gods work which need to be improved upon but rather the good work of God is not the final work of God.
Gods good work is the platform upon which He will work His glorious work.
None of that would cause us to blink a theological eyelid I am sure was it not for one small detail; namely the content of the chapters between Gen 1 and Rev 21 - ie. the whole of the bible!
In the rest of the Bible we have detailed for us the means by which God transforms His good work into His glorious work!
How does He do that?
• Serpent and Satan
• Suffering and Sorrow
• Sacrifice of Calvary of Gods own Son
• Sanctification of the Spirit of God
With these tools, and they are but tools in the hands of a sovereign God, God takes His good work and turns it on the potters wheel of providence and moulds it by the hands of Divine decree until Gods good work becomes Gods Glorious work.
" And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Rom 8:28)
"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will" (Eph1:11)
How does God use suffering to move from His good work to His glorious work?
3 keys in Romans 8:
1. Relationship with Christ that transforms suffering (8:14-17)
2. Result of suffering (8:17-19)
3. Reason for suffering (8:20-24)
Relationship that transforms suffering:
Take away our relationship with Christ and suffering becomes the strongest argument, maybe the only argument the atheist has.
It is also the hardest argument to answer: for to answer it you need to understand how a relationship with Christ transforms suffering & that is the very relationship which they deny!
The background to suffering in Roms 8:18-23 which appears 'out of the blue' in some respects in Romans 8 is that of relationship
Roms 8:14-18 has been focusing on our relationship with God, as sons of God, assured by the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives
• Evidence of Relationship: 8:14 - The fact that I am led by the Spirit of God gives me the assurance of relationship with God
• Experience of Relationship: 8:15 - This relationship by His Spirit leads me out of bondage to sin and brings me into a new and intimate relationship with God in prayer.
• Exercise to this Relationship: 8:16 - I have the confidence of entering into His presence and of enjoying that relationship with God by the assurance of His Spirit testifying in me
• Expectation of the Relationship: 8:17 - Because I have this relationship with God I am a fellow heir with Christ, a fellow sufferer and will be together glorified with Christ.
If in my suffering I see only the demise of my glory and fail to see the display of His Glory I will never triumph over suffering.
The background to the transforming effect of suffering in Romans 8 is that of my relationship with Christ
This is hardly surprising in the context of Romans, for in this epistle the key to all blessing lies in my relationship with Christ:
• The key to salvation (Rom5:11ff) - Relationship with Christ
• The key to sanctification (Rom6:3-4) - Relationship with Christ
• The key to spirituality and spiritual progress (Rom8:9-11) - Relationship with Christ
• The key to suffering (Rom8:17ff) - Relationship with Christ
It is the presence of this relationship, as the background to my suffering that makes sense of all of my suffering
It is this relationship that transforms my suffering
This is emphasised in the structure of 8:17 which revolves around 3 words:
1. Sugkleronomas - Together heir
2. Sumpascho - Together sufferer
3. Sundoxazo - Together glorified
1. I am an heir because I fellowship with Christ who is the Heir
2. I am glorified because I fellowship with the one who has the Glory
3. I suffer because I fellowship with the one who suffers
So then this suffering in v17 is a fellowship with Christ in His sufferings
It is this fellowship which transforms my sufferings
How does this relationship transform my suffering?
By virtue of my relationship with Christ, in this suffering the Grace of God brings me:
Realisation of my Relationship through suffering
Resources in my suffering
Results from my suffering
Rejoicing in to my suffering
Result of Suffering (v17-19)
Glory was the consequence of suffering
Glory was not simply the compensation for suffering
Suffering was embarked upon for the deliberate reason that I might obtain Glory: "we suffer with Him that we may be also glorified..." (v17) - cause and effect.
v 18 - the Glory is incomparable - not so much suffering and so much glory, this is not karma, not compensation, this is grace. There is a Scottish idea of karma: 'never mind you'll get your reward in heaven son.' Resist the temptation to limit glory by estimating it according to the degree of your suffering! Glory is not the reward for suffering, it is the reason behind suffering.
v17 "earnest expectation" : 'apokaradokia' : 'sticking your neck out' Glory is predictable / expected from suffering. There's suffering, God is working, there must be Glory coming.
Reason for Suffering (8:18-25):
1 word "hope" (8:20,24,25)
The hope ultimately of His Glory and the hope that one day I will be glorified in Him (8:19,30)
How do we see hope in suffering?
Display of Gods Glory: It is only in suffering that we see certain aspects of Gods Glory, aspects we would otherwise not see; I may accept that they exist in theory but I would never have any concrete experience of them.
"The Glory of His Grace" (Eph1:6)
Jo1:14: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth"
2 Co 4:15: "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." (ESV)
Heb 2:9: "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man"
1 Peter 5:10 "But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you."
Eph1:6: "The Glory of His Grace"
Some say that even in Eden and with Adam in an unfallen state Grace was evident:
Grace of life
Grace to sustain life
Grace of Gods self revelation to Adam
I am sure that is true but were it not for sin, suffering, Satan and Salvation in the Son we would never perceive the Glory of that Grace to us as we know see it!
The Glory of the Gospel:
2 Co4:4 "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them."
1 Tim 1:11 "According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust"
The Glory which flows from His Mercy:
Rom 9:23 "And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,"
The Glory of God revealed in us by transformation:
2 Co 3:18 " But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Could this have been possible but by Calvary and redemption??
The Glory of Gods Love:
The Relationship that Transforms Suffering:
How does that relationship with Christ transform my suffering:
Relationship that is realised in suffering
Relationship provides resources for suffering
Relationship that sees results from suffering
Relationship that rejoices in suffering
Relationship that is Realised in Suffering:
In saving me - for my life - God has a 2 fold purpose:
Relationship with Him (8:14-17)
Resemblance to Him (8:29)
cf. 1 John 3:1-2
There is probably no setting in life so conducive to the fostering of that relationship and to the molding of resemblance to Christ that suffering! If for no other reason, and there are other reasons that suffering will consistently lead the believer to Rom 8:15 as a personal experience: prayer: dependant, open, honest, sincere prayer
Prayer that flows out of need and finds its satisfaction in the all sufficiency of Christ
Samson - "pray" used only once in his life; in that final trial of suffering, and what did he pray for? He prayed: "Lord strengthen me only this one" - he prayed for strength, big, bold Samson, prayed for strength! Only in suffering and weakness would he have prayed such a prayer and look at the effects; his greatest weakness! God brings me to suffering not to destroy me but to bring me to depend on Him and on His Glory alone that I might enjoy that which is most supremely glorious!
Elijah - Prayer and communion with God at its richest and deepest in Hhis suffering: Mt Horeb (1 Kings 19)
Saul - "behold he prayeth" (Acts9:11) - but only after blindness and total desimation of all his preconceptions about God!! A man who realises that he had studied God all of his life and yet didn't actually know God! "Who art thou Lord?"..."I am Jesus...whom thou persecutest" (Acts9:5). Tell me that's not possible today?? This suffering brings him to prayer.
Jonah - Flees in his freedom (1:3), sleeps in the storm (1:6) but "then Jonah prayed" (2:1) in the belly of the fish.
David - Psalms - David in the psalms moves to prayer and draws close to God in suffering, Psalms which include: Psalm 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 12, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31... ie most of the Psalms!!
It is not that suffering creates the relationship but in suffering that relationship is realised, for in suffering I see my need of Him and of His great Glory, I draw on that relationship.
Perhaps the best example of relationship realised in suffering:
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo - they encounter the Son of God in their suffering!
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo
They enter into suffering
cast into the fiery furnace!
Do you believe in the one true and living God?
Of course we do! That's why we are going into he fiery furnace!
We believe that God spoke by Moses and commanded that "thou shalt not make any graven image....thou shalt not bow down and worship it nor serve it."
So they enter into that fiery furnace.
You would have a second opportunity to interview Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo!
An unexpected second opportunity!
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo do you believe in the one true and Living God of the Universe?
Yes we do! Why? For all the reasons that lead them to go into the fiery furnace AND we met Him in the flames!
By their relationship with that one "like unto the Son of God" that fiery trial was transformed into an experience that confirmed and strengthened and settled their faith forever!
Only a relationship with Christ could transform that trial.
A deepening experience of Christ through the trial.
In Christ I Have the Resources in my suffering (8:15-16):
This is within the context of Romans 8:15-16 - Prayer
It is suffering that so often drives me to prayer and to His presence
In His presence I find the resources I need for that suffering
In and through suffering God has drawn many of His people to Himself in prayer:
• Saul of Tarsus
• David in the Psalms
Presence OF CHRIST:
Romans 8:9-10, 14, 17 "suffer with Him"
Consider Paul: 2 Tim 4:16-17: "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."
Power of Christ
He alone is sufficient to transform all suffering for His Glory (8:18ff)
How did Christ sustain / strengthen in suffering?
• His Presence : "The Lord stood with me"
• His Power: "strengthend me"
• His Provision: "by me the preaching might be fully known"
"fully known" (4:17) - "plērophoreō" - from 'pleres' - full and 'phoreo' - to fill : 'fully filled' or 'fulfilled'
'To fulfill, thoroughly accomplish or being brought to an end and completed, reaching its goal..." (Zodhiates)
So what is Paul saying?
God has given Paul a gift: the gospel.
That gift is no heir loom.
In Christ I have Results from my suffering (Rom 8:18):
There is Hope in suffering - but only in Christ
There is hope of “Glory”
There are results from this suffering in eternity guaranteed (8:18)
There are also results from suffering in time, here and now.
We have the "firstfruits of the Spirit" (Rom8:23) right now - His Spirit with us - and surely we can expect to see an effect with His Spirit already working in and through us.
Consider how the ripples of the Grace of God spread out on the surface of time:
• for the sufferer: I am changed by it
“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” (Heb 12:11)
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Rom 5:3-5)
John 15: Fruit, more fruit and much fruit all from purging and pruning.
1Peter 1:7: "trial of your faith being much more precious that of gold...might be found unto praise and honour and glory." - The preparation for that future glory is here and now.
Consider how a relationship with Christ transformed sufferings and brought real results from that suffering:
The result of a relationship with God that grows:
To Know Christs Presence in the trial
Consider David as a young lad facing a bear and a lion out in the open field
In that experience, by virtue of His relationship with God he fouond help in that trial!
God delivered him out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear!
But just a minute, if God is so great, here is the fatal flaw in your reasoning, if God is so great why could He not protect David from attack in the first place from the lion and the bear?
There would be real results from this experience, for by it Davids faith and confidence would grow in His God
To knew and Prove Gods Power for the trial
From that experience of deliverance in the past from the paw of the lion and of the bear David would draw in 1 Samuel 17 as he faced the greatest threat of all: Gloiath of Gath and David alone would have confidence to go out before Goliath!
How? Let David speak for himself:
"David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee" (1 Sam 17:37)
Joseph and his brethren:
Joseph could look back over those trying years
His suffering made sense but only in the context of his relationship with and faith in God
Through those years of slavery, suffering and imprisonment and then exaltation in Egypt Joseph could trace in that suffering
Gods Provision out of the trial
"But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive" (Gen 50:20)
Samson through blind eyes was able to see
Gods Purpose for the Trial
His eyes taken out, in fetters of brass, led by a child, hair cut, tortures and humiliated
Yet there he is in the temple of Dagon, at a Philistine party
What kind of party can command the release of Samson from the prison cells?
What kind of party can draw Samson centre stage for its entertainment
This was a party of high ranking officials, in a temple - with priests "Lords of the Philistines" (Judges 16:23)
Samson would never have met these people on the battle field!
They would be busy at home catching up on some urgent paper work!
Siegfried Sasson: The General:
‘Good-morning; good-morning!’ the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
‘He’s a cheery old card,’ grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
. . . .
But he did for them both by his plan of attack.
But here they all are, under one roof!
There is Samson positioned between 2 pillars
here is Samsons greatest victory and that through suffering!
I know that men were sinning
I know that Samson was suffering
I know that God is Sovereign
I can see it can't you?
• for other believers: others are helped by it
“Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2Co 1:4)
“And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” (Php 1:14)
Problem of believers sitting on the fence!
How do you stop believers sitting on the fence?
Pour a gallon of diesel on it and flick a cigarette lighter next to it!
God sets the fence on fire!
They can no longer sit on the fence!
No room for mediocrity!
Either they through their lot in with Christ and the apostle and face the same fate as Paul or they pack it in as a bad job!
Paul could see a real response, positive response to his suffering
Not an automatic one!
A response transformed by his relationship to Christ and by the relationship now strengthened in others to Christ!
• for the unbeliever: some are challenged by it
“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;” (Php 1:12)
“Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.”(2Ti 4:17)
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles... Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.”(Act 8:1-4)
In Christ I am able to Rejoice in Suffering:
The relationship with Christ allows me to rejoice in suffering!
I rejoice to see Christ supply and meet my need
Suffering brings me to a state of need and a sense of need before God
To depend upon Him and see Him meet my need is a source of rejoicing
I rejoice to see Christ sustain me in my need
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil 4:11-13)
Not only do I depend upon Him to meet my need but
I depend upon Him in my need (Phil 4:12)
He feeds me in my hunger
he gives grace to cope with my hunger
At times I still feel my need
At times I exist in a state of real need
At times the pain does not go away
At times the hunger is keenly felt
Yet those experiences are precious when I know His sustaining power and peace in the midst of the most difficult of trials
I rejoice that He has sustained me in need
A God who meets my need
A God who meets with me in my need
He supplies, He sustains:
2 Tim 4:16-17: "At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion."
Notes from our bible study teaching series of messages preached systematically, verse by verse, through Paul's letter to the Romans. Free to download audio mp3 recordings of this sermon and other sermons are available at the end of this blog and on the website page.
Yours by Grace in Christ
Dr J Stewart Gillespie