PAUL’S THEOLOGY OF GLORY

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained access by faith into the divine favor in which we stand; and we exalt in hope of sharing in  God’s gloryAnd not only this, but we also exalt in  our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings About perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, -hope; and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in His life. 11 And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Rom5:1-11)

Proceeding through the letter of Romans, I am not endeavouring to provide a running commentary but am drawing out those aspects of Paul’s teaching which in the past had eluded me and in some cases were directly contradicted by what I then believed.

Firstly, the fact that Paul’s theology, although rooted as in this passage in the Cross of Christ and what it has achieved, is ultimately a theology of glory. That cannot be perceived from one particular passage but from his pastoral letters taken as a whole, as I hope will be demonstrated. So as result of the Cross (which in turn is a result of God’s permission of evil and suffering to come into the world) the Christian “exalts in the hope of God’s glory” (v2). And as some translations rightly discern that is not just a case of experiencing God’s glory (as all shall do), the Christian will come to share in it. That should not be such a surprise given that the elect of God are destined to be the corporate bride of Christ. And as Paul later would  affirm to Timothy – “If we endure, we shall also reign together with Christ” (2Tim2:12) which sounds pretty glorious to me.

This in turn gives insight into what is perhaps the ultimate mystery of God – His willingness to permit the Evil One to enter the world to tempt and fatally damage the masterpiece of His creation: humanity. For if there had been no sin and the suffering that comes with it there would have been no need for the Saviour or His Cross. None would have come to share in His suffering, and as is being disclosed, suffering is a prerequisite for those who are to be raised to divinity and attain to God. Such a principle even applied to the incarnate Word, who having humbled Himself as a man “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb12:2). And as the same writer to the Hebrews astonishingly relates: “It was fitting (even for Jesus Christ), for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering, for both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren  (Heb2:10-11). Truly, a theology of the cross and a theology of glory (the latter an anathema to the Protestant Reformers) hereby wonderfully coalesce.  An instrument of torture could never have been a theological end in itself; rather, the cross is a vital means to an end; and that end is glory.

Glory, that is for Christ and all who, having shared in His death, come to participate in His Life. “For being reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved in His life (v10). Note the tenses: having been reconciled and justified we shall be saved – salvation is a continuing process which involves a participation in the Life of Christ. Quite what Paul means by that should become clearer as we proceed.