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Good For You? | is Christianity Regressive?

May 5, 2024
Romans 8:18-25

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

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To discover and experience Jesus Christ in our midst

To cultivate mutually encouraging relationships

To participate in God’s mission to the world 

Opening Prayer

Grant, we pray, Almighty God, that as we believe your only begotten Son to have ascended into heaven, so we may also in heart and mind there ascend, and with him continually dwell; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

Responsive Prayer—Psalm 130

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,

And in his word I hope;

My soul waits for the Lord

More than watchmen for the morning,

O Israel, hope in the Lord!

For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.

Summary and Connection

Is Christianity regressive? We will answer this question in our discussion based on Romans 8:18-25. Suffering and glory is the theme of the Bible in general, and in this section of Paul’s letter to the Romans in particular. According to Paul, the theme of present sufferings and future glory unfolds on a global scale, both in relation to the earth (creation), and humanity (creature). According to the Bible, history is not cyclical—like the ancient Greco-Roman culture, or Eastern culture, such as Hinduism. Nor is history fatalistic or regressive, like modern secularism believes. Instead, according to the Bible, God sovereignly orchestrates history redemptively and progressively, and history has a telos—the glory of God’s children, and the cosmic recreation in the new heavenly city!

In order to grasp the progressive nature of redemptive history, it is important for us to understand the overarching theme of suffering and glory. In Romans 8:18-27, Paul unpacks this theme in three main ways:

Suffering and glory are inseparable — they belong together indissolubly: We see this in the life of Jesus on earth — he suffered for the sins of the fallen humanity, and is glorified for accomplishing the salvation for fallen humanity. Only Christianity offers a robust view of the reality of suffering in this life, and the hope of restoration and glory in the future. According to modern secular culture suffering is an accident. It is an unwanted interruption in an otherwise good life. Our culture offers self-help techniques to counteract, minimize, neutralize, and overcome suffering. We long to experience a life free of suffering — the good life. These techniques work to some extent; however, they fail to address the existential nature of the human condition: the reality and inevitability of suffering. Even though Christian faith doesn’t give us a blueprint to overcome, end, or neutralize suffering on our own, it offers us the presence and guidance of a savior who suffered infinitely and has overcome suffering. 

Suffering and glory characterize two ages: Christianity offers a contrast between this age and the age to come. Theologians call it ‘the already and not yet.’ The present age is characterized by suffering. Paul describes this as the groaning of both the children of God, and creation of God. According to Paul, groaning is like labor pain; however, labor pain has a purpose — the glory of childbirth. Similarly, our present groaning ends in an unutterable splendor of glory. As followers of Jesus, this glory will be one day revealed to us, we will share in this glory, and we will also be transformed by this glory. No one knows the precise nature of what’s in store for us, and yet we await it with eager anticipation — we were redeemed for this hope, and we wait in patience for this hope (8:24-25). We are not called to be stoic — grin and bear, but to endure suffering, looking to Jesus — our suffering savior, with hope. 

Suffering and glory cannot be compared: In verse 18, Paul, with firm conviction, declares that our present sufferings, no matter their intensity, cannot be compared with our future glory. It is a vital distinction. Even though suffering is a pathway to glory, suffering and glory ought to be contrasted, not compared. In 2 Corinthians 4:17, Paul contrasts the weight of present sufferings — light and momentary, with future glory — eternal. One commentator writes, “the magnificence of God’s revealed glory will greatly surpass the unpleasantness of our sufferings.”

In these 9 verses Paul shows the progressive nature of redemptive history. Paul shows us how Christian faith, in spite of the broken world we inhabit, taps into our deepest longing for glory—to be seen, to be loved, validated, and appreciated by someone who is greater than ourselves. We find our deepest longings fulfilled in Jesus, who offers us strength for today, and hope for tomorrow. 

Discussion Questions

1. Looking at the Bible

Observation: Read the passage privately. What does the text say? What according to you is the theme of this passage? Do you notice keywords, parallels, or surprises?

  • How does Paul reconcile the inevitability of present sufferings with the reality of future glory? How does this Christian understanding of suffering and glory help us to view history as redemptive and progressive?

2. Looking at Jesus

At Central we believe that all of Scripture points to Jesus. In other words, Jesus is the theological center of the Bible. Every passage not only points to Jesus, but the grand narrative of the Bible also finds its fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.

  • How do we see the theme of suffering and glory unfold in and through the life of Jesus?

3. Looking at Our Hearts

  • Take a moment to reflect on Romans 8:15. Do you agree with Paul’s firm conviction that your present sufferings are not worth comparing to your future glory? If yes, why? If not, why not?
  • Read Romans 8:26-28: Consider sharing from your experience how the Holy Spirit has helped you navigate your suffering.

4. Looking at Our World

  • How might this passage help you to address our culture’s critique that Christianity is the enemy of progress?


God’s word is a lamp to our feet. Christ’s teachings are a light to our path. May God’s word take root in our lives. May Christ’s love nourish and sustain us. Amen.

  • View Study Guide Notes

    Question 1: Refer to summary and connection, particularly the three main points. Guide your group by showing them how Christianity is not regressive. You could accomplish this by contrasting the claims of Christianity with modern secular culture. Modern secular culture locates our inherent desire to belong, to be loved, recognized and validated in absolute autonomy. Progress, according to our culture, is contingent on our freedom to express, innovate, and create utopia, or the authentic good life. In this quest for the good life, suffering, oftentimes, is seen as an anomaly, and not an inevitable reality. Modern secular culture offers self-help techniques to mitigate, neutralize, and minimize suffering. However, it fails to address the existential nature of the human condition with respect to suffering. In a sheer contrast, Christianity provides an avenue for the sufferers to express. Christianity recognizes the brokenness of the world, and offers the solution in Jesus — the suffering God who plunged to the depths of sorrow and death to seek and save the lost, and the exalted savior who has promised to establish justice and peace, and to wipe away all our tears. 

    Question 2: As mentioned in summary and connection, suffering and glory is the overarching theme of the Bible. We see this in the Old Testament book of Isaiah where the prophet Isaiah describes the Messiah as the suffering servant who was wounded and crushed by God for our sins. This Messiah is also called a man of sorrows who was despised and rejected by his own people. Jesus as the Messiah fulfills the prophecy, by talking on the form of a suffering servant. He perfectly obeyed and fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law on our behalf, yet he was crushed by God for our sins and shame. As a man of sorrows, Jesus was filled with grief over sinners and sufferers. We see him weeping with Mary before raising Lazarus from the dead. We see him weeping over Jerusalem over her hard-heartedness. We see him sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane. We see the apex of Jesus’ perfect obedience and his infinite grief on the cross where he carries our sins and shame, and where he cries out, “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The cross of Christ declares that the sovereign God entered into history as the suffering God. The gruesome reality of the cross provides us a compelling argument against the idea that God is a cold and indifferent deity who doesn’t care about our suffering. God takes human suffering seriously, and he does so by entering into our suffering. 

    Jesus’ suffering on behalf of the fallen humanity was not an end in itself. Jesus’ suffering led to his glory, and will lead to ours. Paul describes this beautifully in Philippians 2:9-11. God the Father glorifies Jesus with infinite honor as the Lord of Lords! Jesus suffered for our salvation, and Jesus is glorified for our glorification. As followers of Jesus, we are called to deny ourselves and carry our cross — to suffer well as we look to Jesus, our glorified Savior. This commitment to lifelong faithful obedience is worth it, because if you have put your trust in Jesus, you are united with him — Jesus’ blessings are your blessings, and Jesus’ glory is your glory.

    Question 3: These are personal application questions. 

    Question 4: This is a personal application question.