Romans 8: A Sight of Christ's Glory
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” – Romans 8:18
Perspective, having the right perspective, is often times the difference between life and death. Joseph, having the perspective given to him by God that for seven years there will be good crops and for seven years famine, was enabled to prepare and survive those seven years of famine. In like fashion it was from his unique perspective that he could look back on all the suffering he endured, all the evil done to him, that he concluded it was all meant for good under God’s hand of providence (see Genesis 50:20). Hindsight is twenty-twenty, as the saying goes, and so often we’re able to look back on some event from a new perspective and see something which we couldn’t quite see in the midst of it.
And in one sense, that’s what Paul is helping us to do in this next paragraph in Romans 8. He’s moving us in verses 18-30 to look at our lives as they stand right now and to view them from an entirely different perspective – a heavenly perspective. It’s as if he’s giving us a video of where we’ll be far in the future, and from that vantage point, he helps us to make sense of where we are now.
Where are we now? Well, remember, he’s already concluded that to be a Christian is to be someone who must share in the sufferings of Christ. Our path to glory is paved with the stones of affliction and we walk in suffering now just as our Savior, the founder and perfecter of our faith, also walked in suffering (see also 1 Peter 5:10). But again, Paul understands that when a person is in Christ all their suffering is inexorably linked to their glory, just as it was with Christ. Suffering and glory, in the Christian life, are married together as one, and what therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
And so, with that being accepted as our reality, Paul continues to lead us up the mountain peak of Romans 8, but he moves us now onto a different ledge in order to give us a different perspective. He wants to show us why our suffering is purposeful, and he begins here in verse 18 with showing us, and having us consider, the telos of our suffering. What is the intended end and outcome?
Well, it is, quite simply, our glorification and future enjoyment of glory; of God’s glory! That’s what he’s comparing in verse 18 and it’s that future glory which Paul is setting his gaze upon in the remainder of this chapter. Just read through verses 18 to 30 and notice the way in which that future glory shines with divine warmth and light on every one of those verses. Paul concludes – and you can almost hear the trembling excitement in his voice – that for those of us who are in Christ there is absolutely no way we will not be glorified! “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30)!
Paul is absolutely consumed with that future glory, which is ours in Christ, and he’s inviting us to share in that heavenly perspective with him. John Owen is right when he says that “only a sight of Christ’s glory, and nothing else, will truly satisfy God’s people. The hearts of believers are like a magnetized needle which cannot rest until it is pointing north. So also, a believer, magnetized by the love of Christ, will always be restless until he or she comes to Christ and beholds his glory.” And it is our beholding that glory by faith now which acts to steady our hearts and encourage us in the midst of suffering. That’s what Paul is doing in verse 18 – he’s comparing, on the one hand, our current sufferings and then, in the other hand, looking intently at our future glory, and he’s saying, in light of that glory my current sufferings are bearable.
He does the same thing in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 when he says “do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” Do you see? There’s a weightiness to glory (in fact, the Hebrew word for glory also means weighty or heavy), which when placed on the balance-scale and compared with the weightiness of suffering, the Apostle says, “there’s no comparison!”
Is the burden of your suffering weighing you down? Look to Christ and by faith behold the future glory that you will enjoy in Him. Consider the patriarch Jacob, who suffered under the weight of losing his son Joseph, of living in a land of famine, and of his other 11 sons behaving so unfaithfully. But Joseph, upon revealing himself to his brothers in Egypt, instructs them to go and tell Jacob of the glory he now has as Prime Minister of Egypt, and that Jacob will soon too be with him where he is and enjoy that same glory (see Genesis 45:13)! As Owen points out, “he did not do this to boast of his own glory, but because he knew how happy and satisfied his father would be when he knew in what a glorious position his son was.”
And so it is with us now! Christ has inspired his messenger, the Apostle Paul, to inform us and encourage us that where Christ is, we shall be also! “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Do you see how this perspective changes the way we see our current situation? Listen to how another preeminent Puritan, Thomas Manton, applies this truth:
“Since faith is ‘the assurance of things hoped for,’ it is our best help, in suffering, for it teaches us to counterbalance our temptations with our hopes. When the devil would make you faint and lazy in the work of the Lord, faith reveals the present difficulty as temporary. When the devil creates irksome thoughts of duty, faith represents the endless delights to follow. The believer determines it is better to go to heaven with labour, than to hell with pleasure. This made Moses so victorious (Heb. 11:26). Looking upon the reward greatly influences our life. Foretastes of heaven will bring such a strong influence in the heart of a believer, that all the reasons in the world cannot alter or break the force of our spiritual purpose… When we are tempted to murmur and repine under the cross, faith will assure that though the way is rough, the end of the journey will be sweet. His promises protect our hearts from poison and preserve the soul in a holy bravery for God.”
In April 1552, five young Frenchmen, who had just recently gone to meet and learn from the pastoral ministry of John Calvin, were arrested and imprisoned in the Roman Catholic city of Lyon, France. Their crime? Alleged heresy, which meant teaching doctrines contrary to Roman Catholicism. Their time in prison lasts for over a year and during that time John Calvin wrote many wonderful letters of encouragement, hoping to keep their spirits up and to show his solidarity with their suffering, and letting them know that he was trying everything he could to get them released. When it became more and more obvious to everyone that these five young men were going to be put to death, martyred by being burned at the stake, the five men wrote one last time to Calvin. This is what they said:
“We want you to know that although our body is so confined here between four walls, yet our spirit has never been so free and so confident. We are so far indeed from wishing to regard our affliction as a curse of God as the world and the flesh wish to regard it, that we regard it rather as the greatest blessing that has ever come upon us.”
A few weeks later they were burned alive and left this world and entered into the glorious presence of their King, Jesus Christ. These men knew deeply what Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Oh, may we too live our lives here with that same glorious perspective.
Stephen Unthank (MDiv, Capital Bible Seminary) serves at Greenbelt Baptist Church in Greenbelt, MD, just outside of Washington, DC. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Maricel and their two children, Ambrose and Lilou.
 John Stott, The Message of Romans (InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 237
 John Owen, The Glory of Christ: Abridged and Made Easy to Read, edited by R.J.K. Law (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), p. 2. The fuller, original, words of Owen are found in volume 1 of his collected works in the Banner edition, p. 286
 Ibid., p. 2
 Thomas Manton, By Faith, Sermons on Hebrews 11, p. 10-16. I found this quote in Voices From The Past: Puritan Devotional Readings, volume 1, edited by Richard Rushing (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2018), p. 24
 You can read these letters in John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, volume 5: Letters, Part 2, 1545-1553, edited by Jules Bonnet (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).