I ended Part One by mentioning Romans 8:17, which contains Paul’s challenging caveat—“…if we share in his sufferings.” Some attempt to explain this verse as merely passive participation in Jesus’ suffering for sinners. But Paul is simply repeating the same requirement given by Jesus in each of the four gospels: he requires self-denial and cross-bearing from every disciple.
Christians are predestined to morph into the shape of the Messiah: a resurrection body in the future, a cross and suffering in the present. As Calvin put it, in the present time, “to be elect is to be marked out for slaughter.” While Paul regards Jesus as the Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7) who takes away the penalty of sin, Jesus is not the only sheep to be slaughtered. After describing the glorious inheritance for the saints and the blessing of being free from condemnation, Paul cites Psalm 44 and applies it to believers:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Rom 8:36-37)
The preposition used to describe the location of Christian conquerors is in all these terrible things-not apart from them. The Messiah conquered sin and death in suffering and sacrifice; our share in that victory will follow his example. Each word in the list of tragedies and difficulties here is also found in the different versions of Paul’s résumé in Corinthians, with one exception: when writing Corinthians, Paul has not yet been put to the sword. Such experiences are neither tragic nor shameful, but opportunities to experience the unfailing love of God and to contribute through suffering for the kingdom. When he and other belivers suffer after the pattern of a rejected Messiah, they fulfill OT prophecy.
While we are on this cross-shaped path Paul does not want us to lose sight of the destiny we share in Jesus as fully human children of God, resurrected and reigning in God’s creation. That is what the Son of God is from Adam until Jesus. That is what Jesus’ siblings will be, which is why Paul tells the Roman Christians that they are not fully adopted until their bodies are fully redeemed (8:23). Only then will they be able to inherit, as “heirs of God and co-heirs of the Messiah (8:16),” the whole redeemed world, the cosmos that was promised to Abraham and his descendants (4:13).