And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him…
I. SONSHIP WITH CHRIST NECESSARILY INVOLVES SUFFERING WITH HIM.
1. We misapprehend the force of this passage if we suppose it to refer merely to outward calamities, and see in it only that the sorrows of daily life may have in them a sign of our being children of God, and some power to prepare us for the glory that is to come. The text does not merely contain a law for a certain part of life, but for the whole of life. The foundation of it is not that Christ shares in our sufferings; but that we, as Christians, participate in Christ's.
2. Do not suppose that I am forgetting the awful sense in which Christ's suffering stands as a thing by itself, incapable of, and needing no, repetition. But do not let us forget that the very writers that emphasise this, say to us, "'Be planted together in the likeness of His death': you are 'crucified to the world' by the Cross of Christ; you are to 'fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ.'" He Himself speaks of our drinking of the cup that He drank of, etc. The fact is, that the life of Christ remains to be lived by every Christian, who in like manner has to fight with the world, to stand, by God's help, pure in the midst of a world that is full of evil.
(1) The sufferings of the Lord were not only those that were wrought upon Calvary. Conceive of that perfect life in the midst of a system full of sin, and ask yourselves whether part of His sufferings did not spring from the contact with it. "Oh that I had wings like a dove," etc., must often be the language of those who are like Him in spirit and in consequent sufferings.
(2) Another branch of the "sufferings of Christ" is to be found in that deep and mysterious fact that Christ wrought out His perfect obedience as a man, through temptation and by suffering. There was no sin within Him. "The Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." But yet, when that dark Power stood by His side, and said, "If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down," it was a real temptation, and not a sham one. And though the doing of His Father's will was His delight; yet obedience, sustained in the face of temptation and the "contradiction of sinners," may well be called suffering.
(3) But not only is the life of Christ as a life of suffering a model for us, but His death, besides being an atonement, is a type of the Christian's life, which is to be one long and daily dying to sin, to self, to the world. There is the "old man," "the flesh," "the old Adam," your own godless, independent, selfish, proud being. And crucifying, plucking out the right eye, maiming self of the right hand, mortifying the deeds of the body, teach us that there is no growth without sore sorrow. And not until you can say, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me," have you accomplished that to which you are consecrated and vowed by your sonship — "being conformed unto the likeness of His death," and "knowing the fellowship of His sufferings." On this high level, and not upon the lower one — viz., that Christ will help us to bear afflictions — do we find the true meaning of all that Scripture teaching; which says to us, If you want the power for holy living, have fellowship in that atoning death; and if you want the pattern of holy living, look at that Cross and feel, "I am crucified to the world by it, and the life that I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God."
3. Such considerations, however, do not necessarily exclude the comforting thought, "In all our affliction He is afflicted." In some trackless lands, when one friend passes through the pathless forests, he breaks a twig ever and anon as he goes, that those who come after may see the traces of his having been there, and know that they are not out of the road. So when we are journeying through the murky night, and the dark woods of affliction, it is something to find here and there a spray broken, or a leafy stem bent down with the tread of His foot and the brush of His hand as He passed; and to remember that the path He trod He has hallowed, and thus to find lingering fragrances and hidden strengths in the remembrance of Him as "in all points tempted like as we are," bearing grief for us, with us, like us.
4. Do not keep these sacred thoughts of Christ's companionship in sorrow for the larger trials of life. If the mote in the eye be large enough to annoy you, it is large enough to bring out His sympathy; and if the grief be too small for Him to compassionate and share, it is too small for you to be troubled by it. If you are ashamed to apply that Divine thought, "Christ bears this grief with me," to those petty molehills that you magnify into mountains sometimes, think it a shame to stumble over them. But never fear to be too familiar in the thought that Christ is willing to bear, and help me to bear, the most insignificant of daily annoyances. Whether it be a poison from one serpent sting, or from a million of tiny mosquitoes, if there be a smart, go to Him, and He will bear it with you; for if so be that we suffer with Him, He suffers with us.
II. THIS COMMUNITY OF SUFFERING IS A NECESSARY PREPARATION FOR THE COMMUNITY OF GLORY.
1. I name this principally for the sake of putting in a caution. The apostle does not mean that if a son of God have no occasion, by brevity of life or other causes, for passing through the discipline of sorrow, his inheritance would be forfeited. We must always take such passages as this in conjunction with the truth which completes them, that when a man has the love of God in His heart, there and then he is fit for the inheritance. Christian people make vast mistakes sometimes in talking about "being made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light," about being "ripe for glory," and the like. It is not the discipline that fits, it only develops the fitness. "God hath made us meet." That is a past act. The preparedness for heaven comes at the moment — if it be a momentary act — when a man turns to Christ. The one may be dispensed with, the other cannot. A Christian at any period of his Christian experience, if it please God to take him, is fit for the kingdom; yet in His mercy He is leaving you here, training you, disciplining you; and that all the glowing furnaces of fiery trial, and all the cold waters of affliction, are but the preparation through which the rough iron is to be passed before it becomes tempered steel, a shaft in the Master's hand. And so learn to look upon all trial as being at once the seal of your sonship, and the means by which God puts it within your power to win a loftier throne, a nobler crown, a closer fellowship with Him "who hath suffered, being tempted," and who will receive into His own blessedness and rest them that are tempted.
III. THAT INHERITANCE IS THE NECESSARY RESULT OF THE SUFFERING THAT HAS GONE BEFORE. The ground of mere compensation is a low one on which to rest the certainty of future bliss. But the inheritance is sure, because the one cause — union with the Lord — produces both the present result of fellowship in His sorrows, and the future result of joy in His joy, of possession in His possessions. The inheritance is sure, because earth's sorrows not merely require to be repaid by its peace, but because they fit us for it, and it would be destructive to all faith in God's wisdom not to believe that what He has wrought for us will be given to us. Trials have no meaning, unless they are means to an end. The end is the inheritance; and sorrows here, as well as the Spirit's work here, are the earnest of the inheritance. Measure the greatness of the glory by what has preceded it. If a fair measure of the greatness of any result be the length of time taken for getting it ready, we can dimly conceive what that joy must be for which seventy years of strife and sorrow are but a momentary preparation; and what must be the weight of that glory which is the counterpoise and consequence to the afflictions of this lower world. The further the pendulum swings on the one side, the further it goes up on the other. The deeper God plunges the comet into the darkness, the closer does it come to the sun at its nearest distance, and the longer does it stand glowing in the full blaze of the glory from the central orb. So in our revolution, the measure of the distance from the farthest point of our darkest earthly sorrow to the throne may help us to the measure of the closeness of the glory above when we are on the throne: for if so be that we are sons, we must suffer with Him; if so be that we suffer, we must be glorified together!
(A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.