provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
In the Roman world, the typical adopting father was a man of wealth and high social standing. The adopted son, in addition to anticipating an inheritance, could expect to enjoy a privileged life free of hardship.
With this background, the Roman believers could readily see the irony in verse 17. They (and we) have been adopted by God himself, the Creator of the universe who owns and rules over all that is. Our future inheritance will be glorious indeed, as befits the children of God. But what about a privileged life in the present?
This question will occupy Paul’s thought for the next dozen or so verses as he explores the contrast between our “present sufferings” and “the glory that is to be revealed to us” (verse 18). We live, as did the Roman believers, in this time of incomplete fulfillment of God’s salvation history. It is a time of joyful struggling. We hope for what we do not see and wait expectantly (verse 25) for a future glory that is so secure Paul speaks of it in the past tense as already accomplished (verse 30).Our inheritance in Christ
We are fellow heirs with Christ. This truth is deeply rooted in the history of God’s interactions with humankind. It goes back to God’s promise to Abraham and his offspring, as Paul detailed in chapter 4 (see my discussion at 4:13–16) and in Galatians. We who share the faith of Abraham are his offspring, but only through the true offspring, Christ (Galatians 3:16, 22, 29).
We also know that we will receive our inheritance from him as our reward. He knows it will be a substantial reward, which is why he told us to lay up for ourselves “treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20–21).What do we inherit?
The greatest treasure is to know Christ and, especially, to be known by him. Our inheritance is summed up in the promise that we will be “glorified with him,” and Paul will elaborate its meaning as the chapter unfolds.
Paul repeatedly wrote of our inheritance being “the kingdom of God,” a gift ungodly people will be denied (1 Corinthians 6:9–10, 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5). God has appointed Christ “the heir of all things” (Hebrews 1:2), which by grace we will share with him.
The promise to Abraham, Paul said in Romans 4:13, was that Abraham and his offspring would inherit “the world.” More is certainly meant by this term than the physical earth, but we can assume its inclusion. Paul will go on in the next several verses to speak of the whole creation being linked with our destiny. And Jesus did say the meek shall inherit the earth.
God pronounced his original creation a “good” dwelling place for humanity, but God’s re-creation to remove the corruption caused by sin will be more than good. It will be sublime. We will live, explore, work, and worship on the New Earth, a gift from our Father that will delight us for eternity.When do we receive our inheritance?
The timing of the consummation remains in the mind of the Father, but many blessings are ours already (see 5:1–11). Adoption into God’s family is certainly one of them.
When God called Abraham to leave his home country, he went out, not knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). We know more clearly than Abraham did where we are going, but we are still looking forward to the same city—“whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10)—and to the return of our Savior who will take us there (Philippians 3:20).
At the consummation of salvation history, that heavenly city will come to earth. God will dwell with us (Revelation 21:3) and we will see the Lord face-to-face (22:4).The privilege of suffering with Christ
Hebrews 12:2 is but one passage asserting that our Lord had to suffer to be glorified. If the founder and perfecter of our faith had to endure the cross to enter into his glory, so must his followers suffer with him to be glorified with him. According to Douglas Moo, Paul in verse 17 sets forth “an unbreakable ‘law of the kingdom’ according to which glory can come only by way of suffering.” To be a fellow heir with Christ requires being a fellow sufferer with Christ.
Charles Cranfield sees in this verse a promise. Now that Christ has suffered and already received his inheritance, “this fact is the guarantee that we too, who are His joint-heirs, will enjoy the fulfilment of our expectations.” Our present sufferings, far from being a reason to doubt the reality of our adoption and heirship, confirm our future glory.
Is our life free of hardship? No. But what a privileged life it is!