Summary: Today, Christians in certain parts of the world face some of the worst persecution in history. How do they handle it?
Today, Christians in certain parts of the world face some of the worst persecution in history. How do they handle it? Only God can empower them to do so. One thing that keeps Christians going when faced with persecution is the knowledge that Christ also suffered more deeply than we can imagine. He can identify with us when we suffer for him. Christ also strengthens us to meet any challenge. Through the last 2000 years, another motivation for Christians being persecuted has been the knowledge that soon and very soon they would be going to meet their King. They would be in a place where suffering would be replaced by rejoicing with the Lord and fellow believers. As faithful followers of Christ, we share that hope of future glory. ( http://www.idop.ca/pages/idop-theme.php)
In addition to freeing believers from sin and death (Rom. 8:2–3), enabling them to fulfill God’s law (v. 4), changing their nature (vv. -11), empowering them for victory (vv. 12–13), and confirming their adoption as God’s children (vv. 14–16), the Holy Spirit guarantees their ultimate glory (vv. 17–30). In verses 17–18 Paul focuses on believers’ incomparable spiritual gain through the divine glory that they are guaranteed.
What difference would in make in our prayers, our evangelism, our hope if we understood each crisis, each form of persecution as an opportunity for glory? In difficulty the world asks why God? In difficulty a Christian responds: why? God! Suffering and persecution is God’s megaphone to show His power over suffering, His provision over human loss, His glory over persecutors gloating.
In proclaiming the incomparable gain believers have in their divinely-bestowed glory even in the midst of persecution, Paul focuses first on 1) The Heirs (Romans 8:17a), then on 2) The Source (Romans 8:17b), 3) The Extent (Romans 8:17c), 4) The Proof (Romans 8:17d), and finally 5) The Comparison in Persecution (Romans 8:18).
1) The Heirs of Glory in Persecution (Romans 8:17a)
Romans 8:17a 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). (ESV)
The emphasis in Romans 8:17–18 on believers’ glory even in persecution is closely related to their adoption as God’s children (vv. 14–16). As is clear from that preceding context, the if in verse 17 does not carry the idea of possibility or doubt but of reality and causality, and might be better translated “because.” In other words, because all believers have the leading of the Holy Spirit (v. 14) and His witness (v. 17) that they are indeed children of God, they are thereby heirs also. Paul uses the term here to denote full possession of all that sonship means in the new age, but it is not so much ownership as relationship that he has in mind (Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans (p. 317). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press.)
Paul’s figure of adoption seems to correspond more to Roman law and custom than to Jewish. We might expect this, because Paul was writing to believers in Rome. In Roman society normally all children received equal shares. Paul’s emphasis in this passage is on the equality of God’s children and the security of their adoption.
Please turn to John 15 (p.902)
Although children of God possess the blessing and inheritance as being a part of the family of God they are also recipients of hostility from evil.
John 15:19-21 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. (ESV)
• The first consideration in suffering is the realization that suffering is not always a direct result of an individual’s sin. Although there are individual consequences from sin, the suffering from persecution is a result of evil hostility to the people of God.
Illustration: During US President Nixon’s administration, some people regarded it as a compliment to be on Nixon’s “enemies list.” They took it as a credit to them that people in the administration opposed them.
In the same way, if you have enemies because of your righteousness, it will be a credit to you. You should be glad that you have that kind of enemies, and that they are persecuting you, because it means that you are not doing what they do and instead are doing what unrighteous people hate (Michael P. Green. (2000). 1500 illustrations for biblical preaching (p. 262). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books).