“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.” – Romans 8:16-17
There are two things I’ve noticed when it comes to these verses. 1) I always seem to hear the first part…the “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” part… in Christian teaching. 2) The second part….the provision of suffering in order for any of the aforementioned statuses to be true…that part doesn’t seem to make it into the sermon.
I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem like an honest portrayal of Christianity to proclaim we’re heirs of Christ while not mentioning the pre-requisite laid out in scripture for that status. It seems like it would be more admirable to teach what scripture actually says about our position in the Heavenly realm rather that what simply feels good. I mean, we’re supposed to be the image bearers of Christ and the proclaimers of His truth…not a gimmicky marketing campaign. Contrary to how the verse is often presented, this scripture doesn’t say the provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” by going to church, doing ministry, praise and worship, listening to “Christian” music, dressing “modestly,” or any other rule talked about in the church.
The provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” is one thing….that we suffer with Him…end of verse.
I mean, let that sink in for a minute. We are heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him. Provided that we suffer with Him. Provided that we suffer with Him. And….Jesus suffered a lot. He suffered in a lot of different ways. He was misunderstood, despised, rejected, lied about, constantly falsely accused, betrayed by people who swore to follow him, left alone in his greatest moments of need, and then tortured and killed. And Scripture tells us to be like him. To follow in His footsteps, and to suffer with him. And only if we suffer with Him, are we children of God as He is.
How many of us remember to thank God during our sufferings? I’d venture to say, not many. I know I certainly forget way too often. But I read this scripture and get angry when I realize how often it’s conveniently left out in church teachings. The verse means that if we say we’re Christians but aren’t suffering, we aren’t doing something right. And if we’re seeking nothing but comfort and ease, we’re DEFINITELY seeking the wrong things. And yet, so many churches teach that.
The necessity of suffering is a truth that counters both culture and what is often taught from the pulpit. It’s a mindset that is totally foreign to our current culture and society. But it IS the truth and reality of scripture, and I think we need to fully grasp and understand it (and other hard truths like it) before we jump on a bandwagon we don’t honestly know anything about.
“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”