Romans 8:17 speaks of our suffering with Christ so that we may also be glorified with Him. Implied in this verse is the truth that the children of God will be persecuted, lied about, ostracized, and hated by the world – especially by the unbelieving, unregenerate, religious world. The children of God will suffer for their faith. The Bible doesn’t hide this truth but speaks of it clearly, plainly, and often.
Suffering in the form of persecution and hatred from the world is intended by the devil to keep men in his kingdom; operating by the flesh rather than by faith; concerned for their comfort rather than their character; and more concerned about what other men say and think about them rather than what God says and thinks about them. Suffering with Christ is a price to high to pay for those who don’t have biblical saving faith. So suffering in the form of persecution and hatred from the world is used by the devil to cause those who are moving toward the truth to turn away from it. “The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21).
Notice how Jesus says that this person doesn’t have biblical saving faith – “Yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary.” This type of man professes faith – “This is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy” – but does not possess faith – “Yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary.” Suffering in the form of persecution and hatred from the world will cause this type of man to stumble and to turn away from the truth – to live by flesh and not faith – because the price is too high.
The person with a profession of faith but who does not possess biblical saving faith will then seek to be friends with the world so that he does not have to suffer with Christ. Since afflictions or persecutions arise because of the word, the professor who is not a possessor resorts to walking in craftiness and watering down the word (2 Corinthians 4:2); peddling or corrupting the word of God (2 Corinthians 2:17); seeking the favor of man rather than the favor of God (Galatians 1:10); removing the offense of the cross (Galatians 5:11); and making himself a friend of the world (James 4:4) just to name a few.
The one who professes faith but does not possess faith will not take a firm stand on the truth of the word of God. The reason is because taking a firm stand on the word of God which is taking a firm stand on truth is what brings the heat – affliction and persecution arises because of the word. People who will not stand in the truth and suffer with Christ do not belong to Him. Jesus said, “You are of your father the devil and want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44). These people do not stand in the truth and do not suffer with Christ. “Submission to Christ without submission to the Scriptures is submission to a self-made Christ, not submission to Christ” (John Piper).
You can take a modern day professor of faith who does not posses faith and put him on Larry King Live and when asked by Larry King, “What about the Jews and others who don’t believe in Christ, will they go to hell?” And the instant reply is, “I don’t know! That’s God’s business. I can’t be their judge!” And then – presto – our world friendly, truth denying, Scripture twisting heretic, is loved by all men and esteemed as a hero of the faith. And how quickly men forget that Jesus said, “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way” (Luke 6:26), and, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
But those who have received the love of the truth so as to be saved take a stand in the truth and suffer with Christ because of it. These are not just professors of faith – these are possessors of faith. Becoming a genuine believer will not make one popular – it will make one persecuted! We will not be in step with the world – we will be out of step with the world and because of this the world will hate us.
Our suffering with Christ and being afflicted and persecuted because of the word is absolute evidence that we are indeed children of God. When we are insulted, falsely accused, hated, ostracized, and our names scorned as evil for the sake of Christ, we know that we do indeed belong to Him.
The children of God suffer with Christ because they do not corrupt the word of God; they do not water down the word of God; they seek the favor of God rather than the favor of men; they do not attempt to remove the offense of the cross; and they do not make themselves friends of the world and enemies of God!
It is God’s will that His children suffer with Christ (1 Peter 4:12-19). Through our suffering with Christ, God chips away at all that does not conform to the image of His Son so that He can make us more like Jesus. Through our suffering with Christ, God causes us to walk by faith – entrusting our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right – and not by flesh. Through it we learn that God is causing all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
Through our suffering with Christ we know that we are children of God and that we genuinely have received the love of the truth. We also know that our suffering is working for us and not against – “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us” (Romans 8:31)?