Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
We return to Romans 8 today and pick up our expositional study in verse 18. To set up today’s devotional, let us recall verse 17, which says that being glorified with Christ is in some sense a consequence of suffering with Him. Of course, we know that suffering with and for Jesus cannot be the meritorious basis for our glorification, God’s perfecting us in the life to come. After all, our being declared righteous in Christ in our justification is what secures our glorification, and the meritorious basis of our justification is the perfect righteousness of Jesus that is imputed to our accounts through faith alone (vv. 29-30; see 4:1-8; 5:12-21). Nevertheless, suffering with Jesus proves that we belong to Him, and it is part of our sanctification, the path of holiness we travel before we receive in its fullness what is assuredly ours because of our justification. “A servant is not greater than his master,” so if our Master Jesus suffered, we will be called to suffer as well (John 15:20).
Our suffering fills up “what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:24). It is not that Christ’s suffering is insufficient to save; rather, Paul has in mind the birth pains that characterize the transition from the old era of death to the new era in which all will be renewed. According to Scripture, there will be great tribulation for God’s people before the old gives way to the new, for the current world system attempts to resist the Lord’s consummation of His plan (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:3-8). Jesus is the true Israel—He is God’s people par excellence—but we are God’s people as well, so the birth pains of suffering must be felt by us as well. What is lacking is the sum total of tribulation that must occur before the new heaven and earth come. Because Jesus inaugurated the last days in His life, atoning death, resurrection, and ascension, there is suffering for the church from the point of His ascension until His return to consummate all things and transform creation itself. Our suffering fills up these birth pains; it is part of what will usher in the new creation. The new creation has been guaranteed by Jesus’ work, but the suffering of God’s people that precedes the consummation of the new creation—including our suffering—has not yet been completed.
Knowing this, we should not be discouraged. Paul tells us that our suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory of the new heaven and earth (Rom. 8:18). It is not that our suffering is on one end of a spectrum and glory is on the other. There is no comparison between the two. The glory to come will far surpass even the best that we can imagine.
Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Romans: “The difference between the present degree of pain we experience and the blessedness to which God has appointed His people is so immensely different that there is no way to compare them. Any comparison we come up with falls short.” When you are discouraged by your troubles, know that what is to come for you in Christ will be so wonderful that all your pain will be worth it.