Our Current Suffering and Eternal Salvation

Dealing with daily suffering is a sad reality of living in a fallen world. But in Romans 8:18, Paul reminds all believers that our current suffering is worth the beauty of heaven and seeing our Savior’s face after our time on this earth is done. Read commentary by Michael Middendorf on this verse from Romans 1–8, Volume 1 of the Concordia Commentary series below.

“Indeed, I count that the sufferings of the present time [are] not of equal value [compared] to the glory which is about to be revealed to us” (8:18). This verse sets the stage for the entire discussion to follow. “In fact, the whole of vv. 19–30 may be said to be in one way or another support for, and elucidation of, v. 18.”

Understanding Our Credits and Debits

The first word in 8:18 is a familiar one, the verb “credit, count, account” (λογίζομαι, nineteen time in Romans). Together with “not of equal value [compared] to” (οὐκ ἄξια … πρός), it forms an idiom of financial comparison. In a positive expression, this involves “counting” or “calculating” things that are equal in value. Here, however, the calculation is negated. “The sufferings of the present time” are not of equal value when compared to what is on the other side of the ledger.

The phrase “the sufferings of the present time” (τὰ παθήματα τοῦ νῦν
καιροῦ, 8:18) introduces the dominant topic under discussion from here through 8:30, and even to 8:39. Paul is driving toward a satisfactory answer to explain how and why these “sufferings” are to be endured and even overcome. This phrase is connected to 8:17, where Paul refers to our present suffering with Christ by using the compound verb “we are suffering with [him]” (συμπάσχομεν). His use of “the sufferings” (τὰ παθήματα)in 8:18, however, is not simply equivalent to that thought; neither is it the same as when this noun (παθήματα,“sufferings”) appeared in the phrase “the passions of the sins” … in 7:5.

Dealing with Suffering

In light of what Paul has already written about the believer’s present life through our Lord Jesus Christ, he now faces the conundrum of theodicy. How and when will a righteous God deal with the problem of human suffering? Rather than specifically answering that question, Paul instead addresses how believers are enabled to endure “the whole gamut of suffering, including things such as illness, bereavement, hunger, financial reverses, and death itself.” It is significant that Paul does not deny the painful reality or the extent of the problems being addressed. Instead, his answer is one of comparison. Believers should calculate the value on one side of the ledger, the debits of present sufferings, and contrast it with the unlimited positive balance which God has already credited to us.

Added to the surplus side of the ledger is “the glory which is about to be revealed to us” (πρὸς τὴν μέλλουσαν δόξαν ἀποκαλυφθῆναι εἰς ἡμᾶς, 8:18). Paul uses a number of key terms in this final phrase of 8:18. Utilizing another commercial metaphor, 1:23 describes how humanity bartered away the glory bestowed upon them by their Creator: “they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God” (ἤλλαξαν τὴν δόξαν τοῦ ἀφθάρτου θεοῦ). As a result, they all forfeited this glory: “for all sinned and are lacking the glory of God” (πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ, 3:23). But Paul has also spoken of the future glory awaiting those who receive eternal life from God. As in 5:14 and 8:13, Paul uses “about to” (μέλλω) in 8:18 to express both the imminence and the divine certainty of the glory which is about to be revealed. “Reveal” (ἀποκαλύπτω) is used thematically in 1:17 to describe the present revelation of the righteousness of God in the Good News being proclaimed already now. Here it is used to point ahead toward the full manifestation of our eschatological glory.

Christ’s Glory for Us

Christ is now glorified in a manner not yet unveiled to this world. But the eternal weight of our glory in him has yet to be bestowed upon us. Still, it is surely coming “to us.” The direction of that prepositional phrase is important. The NT generally does not emphasize our going to heaven nearly as much as it talks about Christ coming back to raise, gather, be with, and glorify us. Similarly, 8:18 does not say that we are headed to glory-land, but that this glory is coming “to us.” This fits well with the talk of the creation, including our bodies. Instead, when Christ is revealed at his second coming to earth, he will restore creation and glorify us in our bodies (see Rom 8:24; 1 Cor 15:23–24, 50–57).

Post adapted from Romans 1–8 Volume 1, Concordia Commentary. Copyright © 2013 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved. 

To read more commentary on the first part of the Book of Romans, order the Concordia Commentary below. 

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