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Adoption Helps Us Endure Suffering, Part 1

by Dennae Pierre Published Oct 29, 2011

Romans 8 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. It is full of robust, practical theology.  By practical theology, I mean that this is one of those Bible passages where we can find relevant truth for almost any issue we encounter in our daily life. It is packed with meaningful truth that intersects our life in our deepest moments of need.

In the 7 preceding chapters in Romans and then in the 39 verses within this chapter 8, Paul unpacks a theology of God, the Holy Spirit, adoption, prayer, suffering, and God’s love for believers (along with many other things). This chapter is full of hope as Paul paints a picture of the glorious God we have the privileged to call father. Interestingly, in this entire passage Paul does not offer a single command to the reader. We are not told to “do” anything as a result of these glorious truths (of course we see Paul begin to draw out the implications to these truths later in Romans). This whole chapter screams of God’s incredible worthiness as Paul tries to open our eyes to the eternal reality we have been called to.

Paul begins Romans 8 by telling us that because of Christ, there is now “no condemnation” and sums up Romans 8 with the fact that there can also be “no separation” from his love. Everything between those two thoughts is a continually expanding picture of this glorious God who has chosen not to condemn or separate himself from us, but instead chose to make us his children.

Then in Romans 8:12-16, we read one of the great adoption passages of scripture. Understanding these verses are vital to suffering, because it is on the foundation of the reality of our adoption by God, that Paul then builds his theology of suffering.  He is giving the reader a way to understand their relationship with God so that they can understand why nothing can “separate them from the love of God” (8:39).

Romans 8:12-16:

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 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.

Paul reminds us that we are no longer slaves. God has replaced the spirit of slavery that once mastered our lives with his very own Spirit. But we so easily forget this!

It reminds me of a child who was taken into a loving family after years of starvation. The only way this child knew how to find food was by begging, stealing, or rummaging through trash cans. The family takes this child in, offers him a kitchen full of healthy foods and meals, yet when the sun sets, the child is gripped by the fear of going hungry the next day.  He sneaks, steals, and hordes food. From an outside perspective looking in, it makes no logical sense why this child would steal when they have a full stomach. But the child spent his whole life a slave to hunger and knows no other way. We do the same thing. We revert back to our pre-Christ days and live as though we are slaves to sin and death.

But Paul reminds us that we were not delivered from the yolk of sin so that we can slip back into fear. Instead, we can joyfully say that we were adopted by God Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and we were given the Holy Spirit which enables us to cry Abba Father. We do not have to live as though we still belonged to the father of lies, condemned, ashamed, and enslaved to sin; because we are now sons of God, co-heirs with our brother, Jesus Christ!  We will inherit from God what he gave his own begotten son: glory. We will be glorified as Christ was glorified.

What does this have to do with suffering? Everything. The glory that we have been given as sons of God will be amplified times infinity in eternity. We have a taste now of what we will have for all eternity: the glory of God. It is on this truth, this reality that Paul then works out the how and why we can endure suffering while on this earth. But that takes us into the rest of Romans 8, which I will talk about in my next post.

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