romans

Like Jesus, Paul linked the idea of being a servant with suffering: “We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:3–10).

A substantial part of Paul’s definition of bondservant that we read in these verses includes physical suffering. However, there is also joy, spiritual uplifting, fruitfulness and moral rightness in these verses. This is encouraging and uplifting. This bondservant stuff seems to be tough sledding, indeed. It goes without saying that we will need Jesus’ help to walk in it.

According to Romans 8:16–18, it appears that our becoming fellow heirs with Jesus Christ is in some way dependent upon our suffering with Him. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 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. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

This passage from Acts seems to be a companion verse to what we just read in Romans: “When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:21–22).

Apparently, suffering for Jesus Christ is part of the job description of servant. Peter used a military metaphor when he encouraged the readers of his letter to include suffering in their way of thinking. “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1–2).

I understand that this is not happy, happy, pleasure-soaked teaching here. I’m glad for this. The Church in the West has become too comfortable, too accustomed to pleasure. However, we should be challenged by these words of Jesus not to dismiss it: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13–14).

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