Sermon Notes – 23 July 2017

The Gift – 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.

   Last week’s Epistle (Romans 8:12-17) informed us that those who “are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  It concluded that if we are children of God, “then [we are] heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”  Paul, in our text for today, continues with that idea and makes a comparison between the sufferings of this present time and the glory that is to be revealed to us.

   In verse 17 Paul refers to that which we suffer because of our connection to Christ.  In verse 18 he expands to “the whole gamut of suffering, including things such as illness, bereavement, hunger, financial reverses, and death itself.”[1]  As the commentator Richard Lenski points out, “much of [the general suffering] is not for Christ’s sake, some of it is due only to our own sins and our faults which necessitate chastisement (Hebrews 12:4-11), some of which is due to evil men, and some of which is incidental to our earthly existence.”[2]

   In saying “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing…” Paul uses an idiom of financial comparison.  On the debit side of the ledger he places not only the sufferings we might face and the crosses we might bear for the sake of Christ, but he also includes all the anxieties, woes and pains of human existence in a fallen world.  Add it all in and it will still not be worth comparing to the credit side of the ledger, “the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

   Sometimes we are tempted to overestimate the value of our suffering—as if our endurance of pain somehow earned the heavenly home that has been promised to us.  But if our sufferings are not even worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us, it doesn’t seem as though we are earning anything, does it?  The glory to be revealed is not a wage—it is a gift.  It is an inestimable gift.  Its worth far exceeds the value of anything and everything we could put forward. [Romans 4:3-5]  The law of God tells us exactly what we do earn.  The gospel tells us what Christ has earned for us.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  [Peter Hernon’s The Great Rescue, burial at sea[3]]

   We tend to underestimate the destructive power of sin.  There is much said about man’s destructive power over the environment and much debate as to how much of it is man’s fault.  On a deeper level the Apostle Paul contemplates the havoc wreaked by human sin over the environment, over creation, long before anyone thought about carbon footprints.  [Romans 8:21-23]  We await the final gift earned for us by Christ—the revealing of God’s glory in our resurrection, in the creating of a new heaven and a new earth, in the removal of the corrosive, destructive power of sin.

   So often we hear of the “problem of pain” and too often we get weighed down by the seemingly philosophical conundrum “how can a loving God allow so much pain.”  Dr. Paul Brand (1914-2003) was the son of Christian missionaries in India and a preeminent hand surgeon.  He spent most of his long medical career helping people suffering from leprosy.  He was the first physician to figure out that the loss of appendages was not because leprosy ate away at the flesh.  The loss of appendages came because leprosy destroyed the nerves that communicated pain to the brain, which resulted in regular damage to the fingers, hands, toes, feet, noses, etc.  When he wrote his autobiography he did not call it The Problem of Pain, he called it The Gift of Pain. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, ©1993)  [Dr. Brand’s own experience with the loss of pain]

   Pains and sufferings remind us that this temporal home is not our eternal home.  Pains and sufferings remind us of the power of sin and the enemies of our faith.  Pains and sufferings remind us of and connect us to the pains and sufferings of Christ—the pains and sufferings and death through which we are redeemed.  Pains and sufferings can be messengers that help us gain a perspective about the glory that is to be revealed to us.  “For,” Paul writes, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”



[1] Concordia Commentary: Romans 1-8, Michael P. Middendorf, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, ©2013, page 668.

[2] Ibid.

[3] The Great Rescue, Peter Hernon, Harper Collins, New York, ©2017, page 253.

 

 

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