Because sin, working through the Law though not being a part of it, brings death, the Christian engages in an internal, personal war. The holy and righteous Law of God is his delight, but sin works in his members against it. To be in Christ is to suffer with Him, because being in Christ means being a new creation, wholly distinct from the old. How, then, does God call His creation to live in Him?
Paul emphasizes in the reading just before the pericope for the Fourth Sunday after Trinity that Christians live according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh. Christians follow after the Spirit of God as sons, not as slaves of the flesh. Sin is not a necessity, in that sense, for the Christian. He will sin, of course, because of his great weakness, and sin remains ever at the door, desiring entrance. But he is no longer ruled by sin, but by Christ. Being in Christ means suffering with him in order to be glorified with Him, for the Christian is being remade in His image.
This suffering is not meaningless, nor is it worthy of serious concern. It is “not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Being glorified with Christ will show these present sufferings for what they really are: fleeting and temporary, meant for building us up and not for our destruction. “Weeping may tarry for the night” (Psalm 30:5), and a dark night that might be, wherein “I drench my couch with my weeping” (Psalm 6:6)! Even the most intense trouble now will give way to joy, but not in a trivial way. Christ’s own suffering was far from trivial. Who has suffered like He suffered on our behalf? Yet His suffering came to an end and the Father has bestowed on Him a glory far exceeding any earthly glory, “the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).
On that day will come “the revealing of the sons of God,” the moment in which our glory in Christ will no longer be hidden. “We know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2). The sheep will be distinguished from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46). It will be the day of the fullness of our redemption, the resurrection from the dead, the hope toward which we press. Salvation is both now and yet to come, because while our assurance comes in this moment, the fullness of our redemption will come when Christ finally brings all things under His feet. Sin will be no more in that day, and all of the former things will pass away, never to return again.
Even creation awaits this revelation. It too is in bondage, because Adam’s sin frustrated its original purposes. Adam is, after all, the head not only of the human race, but of all creation. He holds dominion over it, given to him by the Lord (Genesis 1:28). His sin causes the earth to fail in bringing forth the fullness of its strength (Genesis 3:17-19). Even more to the point, not only does creation undergo the judgment of the Flood because of man’s sin (Genesis 6:7), it also falls under the covenant made with Noah (Genesis 9:8-11). Therefore, man’s sin means the creation suffers with him. It longs to be set free from this slavery and return to its original state, just like the restoration of man in Christ.
If the world longs to see the great day of redemption, how much more do we as Christians? We must wait, of course, and such patience is a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, as Paul goes on to say, “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). Even if we must suffer, we suffer with Christ. Even if we must wait for the fullness of our salvation, we wait with Christ. Even if we must die, we die with Christ. Our war with sin is not fruitless or pointless, but part of separating us from the body of death and making us heirs of eternal life.