041 | Romans 8:12-17

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 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. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 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!” 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.
— Romans 8:12-17 ESV

 

We are not in debt. That’s great news. Ashleigh and I have been in a debt free journey (thanks, Dave Ramsey) and I can’t handle anymore debt!

Well, we aren’t debtors to the flesh. We carry full rights to the kingdom because we’re in Christ, and Christ has fully, perfectly fulfilled the law. So, what’s that gotta do with debt?

You know, some people believe they have to make an equal transaction of good to repay for all the bad they’ve done. That’s called penance. So, you steal a candy bar from a grocery store as a kid and now you need to feed five orphans to make up for it. Stealing certainly isn’t good and feeding orphans is awesome. BUT, one doesn’t cancel the other. So instead, Jesus has canceled all of our debts - rather, paid all of our debts - and we are completely free.

So free, in fact, that we receive full rights in the kingdom. The passage goes on to say we’ve even received adoption as sons, making us heirs who stand with Christ.
But then it goes on to say something that I’d like to talk about.

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.

I use six writing utensils in my bible. I use a yellow highlighter to make basic highlights of things. I use a pink and a blue highlighter to get my attention a little more than the yellow so if it needs to be highlighted, and it’s more significant or more potent than the yellow highlights, it gets the blue or the pink. Then I have a green highlighter that I use to highlight everything dealing with money. Appropriate color, right? I use a blue pen for notes. I like the blue because it doesn't blend in with the print like a black pen does. Finally, I have a red pen. I use the red pen, thankfully not all the time, but the red pen gets used. The red pen is reserved for things I don’t understand yet. I’ll make a note or circle something and the next time I read it, I know it deserves extra attention.
“Provided we suffer” is circled.  Several times.

It’s easy to read something like that and lean into an “easy-cliche-theology” and pass over it quickly. But I’m not experiencing grace for life through Jesus Christ when I just gloss over everything I read. Revelation is living on the other side of your questions. So ask them! Needless to say, this is a passage that I still have questions about.

Really quick, let me tell you how I deal with that as an individual... and as a minister.
As an individual, my core theology is strong enough, at this point, that reading things I might not understand doesn’t cause me to melt down in a state of confusion. I’m very comfortable not being able to defend every line of every page of the Bible. Some people aren’t. And they either obsess over it or they make stuff up out of thin air and stick with it!

As a minister, I’ve made a decision that I will publicly acknowledge when I don’t feel like I have a full understanding. And after I make that clear, I lay out some options. At the end of the day, it’s not my place to tell you what to believe but to help you find your belief. Not in the sense that you get to just choose everything that makes you feel nice, but in a way that you can work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

So let me lay out some options.

The obvious and literal translation of this would be that you need to suffer in the same way that Jesus suffered. Now... I don’t even sorta-kinda think that’s what this is saying but… options!
One theologian I’ve read says that this particular portion of scripture is referring to our suffering as “the daily anxieties, tensions, and precautions that are the lot of those who follow Christ” Or, in other words, you follow Jesus but you still have to live with all the stuff that happens in life. It ain’t all a bed of roses.

I can actually give that position a thumbs up. I don’t particularly have any problems with interpreting this passage that way. BUT I’m gonna give you another thought.
There are instances in scripture that involve what I call “a transferred experience.”
For instance, Galatians 2:20 says I’ve been crucified with Christ. Well, no I haven’t… but I have. Jesus was crucified, I wasn’t but I get to share in his crucifixion and because of that, I’ve been crucified.

In Romans 6 we’re told that in Baptism we shared in Jesus’ death. But I haven’t died… but I have. Because Jesus died, I died, even though I never died.

Ephesians 2 says we’ve been seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. But I haven’t been to heaven… but I’m there, and I’m sitting... even though I’m here, standing.

All that being said, I have a good feeling this is another “transferred experience.”
I haven’t suffered, but Christ suffered. And because Christ suffered, I suffered. And even though I never suffered, I did.

I hope that sounds kinda confusing, because it is! But it’s also assuring. Jesus transfers his experience to me so I get to reap the full benefits of his work even though my work isn’t even a smidgen as good as his!
Now, again, I want to reiterate my thoughts on this particular passage aren’t something I’m gonna plant my flag over. But I’ve given you some options to think about. 

Podcast, VideoJason Mayfield