We are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.Romans 8:16-17 RSVCE
Provided We Suffer With Him
The divine life of God begins to dwell in the soul of every Christian at baptism, the down-payment of the inheritance promised us after death. But for the full inheritance to be received, there is a stipulation. We are heirs of God, with Jesus Christ, Paul writes, “provided we suffer with him” (Romans 8:17). Christians receive the life of God, but they also must freely participate with the grace they receive in baptism to conform themselves daily to Christ. Specifically, the Christian is called to imitate Jesus in his or her life, which includes not only receiving blessing from the Father, but also the cross. Saint Thomas Aquinas explains,
It must be recalled that Christ, the principal heir, attained to the inheritance of glory through suffering: was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and so enter his glory? But we must not expect to obtain the inheritance by an easier way. Therefore, it is necessary that we attain to that inheritance through suffering: through many tribulations, we must enter the kingdom of God. For we do not receive an immortal and unsuffering body at once, in order that we might suffer along with Christ.
Jesus endured the cross for the sake of the world and its salvation, and he asks all Christians to recapitulate the cross in their own life.
The practice of imitating Christ on the cross is sometimes known as “cruciformity,” and cruciformity is necessary for the Christian. Scripture scholar Michael Gorman writes that Paul truly believes that to live any other way is to preach another Gospel. He says, “To disassociate the powerful, resurrected Christ from the crucified Christ is to preach another Jesus; to separate the Spirit of God from the Spirit of cruciformity is to preach a spirit other than the Spirit of the Son given by God, and to abandon the crucified Christ and the God-given Spirit of cruciformity is to offer another gospel.”
Cruciformity is not possible without Christ Himself. This is why Baptism and the reception of divine life are necessary. Baptism not only frees one from the bondage of sin but provides the grace necessary to endure the suffering by uniting it to the cross of Christ. Gorman explains, “Salvation occurs only as through fire. Christ’s body must participate in Christ’s sufferings. Believers suffer with Christ for others … For Paul, suffering was one way of identifying with his Lord, of reliving his story in the present.” Scripture scholar Brant Pitre affirms this stating, “Christ’s work involves enabling believers to participate in his redemptive work. Those in Christ are thus fully conformed to his image, offering themselves as sacrifices in union with him. They are incapable of liberating themselves from sin; only Christ can atone for sin. Nevertheless, once in him, believers truly share in his redemptive work.” Christians must be willing to endure and embrace any sufferings that may come from conforming their will to God’s will. This will be necessary to attain the future glory that they know awaits them.
The suffering endured by the Christian is neither accomplished alone, nor by their own power. When a Christian suffers it is actually Christ who suffers in them. This reality is what led Paul to believe in Christ. When Paul fell to the ground on the road to Damascus he heard Christ say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). Paul understands that Christ continues to accomplish his salvific work through his body the Church. Pitre explains, “According to Paul, then, what Christ has done in his personal body, he now accomplishes in his ecclesial body—this idea flows logically from his view of believers’ unity with one another in the body of Christ.” Christians have a special unity with Christ and this is why the suffering of Christians is redemptive. A Christians life is a living sacrifice offered up as worship to God. Pope Benedict XVI explained, “Paul always presumes that we are all ‘one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28), that we died in Baptism (cf. Rm 1) and that we now live with Christ, for Christ, in Christ. In this union and only in this way we are able to become in him and with him ‘a living sacrifice’, to offer ‘true worship.’”
So That We May Also Be Glorified With Him
Romans 8:17 ends with, “so that we may also be glorified with him.” Death to self and life in the spirit leads to suffering, yet this suffering ultimately ends in glory. The suffering Christians undergo pales in comparison to the coming glory they will inherit. Thomas Aquinas writes, “Thus, the sufferings of this life, if they are considered in themselves, are slight in comparison to the quantity of this glory; for a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you (Isa 54:7). But if these sufferings are considered insofar as they are voluntarily endured for God out of love, which the Holy Spirit produces in us, then man properly merits eternal life through them.” After being conformed to the image of Christ crucified; Christians can then hope to bear the image of the risen and exalted Christ. This reality of future participation in God’s glory provides strength and hope in our fallen world.
Ultimately, even though suffering is a necessary path on the road to glory, one should not make the mistake of thinking that Christians are called to seek out suffering for suffering’s sake. The call of the Christian is first and foremost to live a life according to the Spirit. Gorman explains, “Life in the Spirit is a journey toward the future with God; in the present, believers move in step with the Spirit by allowing the Spirit, rather than the flesh (humans’ anti-God propensity), to direct them.” Life in the Spirit is the glory of man and it begins in this life. Benedict XVI agrees that this is Paul’s perspective:
Stepping from eternity into history, Paul speaks of three more events that affect the lives of his people in a decisive way. At some point, God called us to faith in Jesus Christ. Thereupon he justified us by his grace, making us righteous in his sight, and even glorified us by infusing his Spirit to dwell within us. It is true that our glorification will not take place in full until our bodies are raised immortal on the last day, but even now glorification is underway. It is a process of transformation that unfolds in a hidden way as the Spirit works to make believers more and more like Christ (see 2 Cor 3:18). So it is that Paul views God’s grace at work before history, throughout history, and at the end of history.
Benedict XVI is saying the glory of man is not a one-time event, but a process. Christians must wait for their adoption to become complete through the resurrection of the body.
The process of receiving Christ’s glory continues as much as each person is willing to allow Christ to rule their life. Paul, earlier in his letter to the Romans, adopts the language of slavery. In Romans 6:22 Paul writes, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.” Pitre summarizes this by relating glorification to divinization—becoming participants in Christ’s divinity. Specifically, he writes, “For Paul, glorification is truly theōsis (“divinization”). Believers are ‘glorified’ because they are ‘in Christ.’”
By becoming free from sin in baptism, one becomes an adopted child of God and thereby shares in Christ’s inheritance. Although this heritage is freely given, that does not mean it comes without a cost. Christ received the glory of the resurrection only after His suffering and death on the cross. Therefore, all Christians must recapitulate Christ’s sufferings so that they may also share in his glory—which means sharing in the very life of God himself. They do this not by seeking suffering for its own sake, but by living a life in the Spirit and willingly accepting the suffering they may endure by choosing the do the will of God. The sufferings endured pale in comparison to the glory that awaits them in heaven. I will end with a quote from Michael Gorman who summarizes this well:
It is absolutely crucial … to recognize that each of the benefits of the gospel is ultimately derived from God’s grace manifested in Christ, centered in the cross, confirmed by the resurrection, made effective by the Spirit, and experienced in community. The gospel is therefore a trinitarian event for Paul, and a story of death and resurrection both for Christ and for believers, individually and corporately. To believe this gospel is to enter into a relationship with the triune God of the cross and resurrection, and with God’s people.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Pauline Commentaries (651). Kindle.
 Michael J. Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord: A Theological Introduction to Paul and His Letters. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co., 2004. Kindle.
 Ibid., 868-871.
 Brant Pitre et al., A New Covenant Jew. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Co., 2019. Kindle.
 Ibid., 4962.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Saint Paul. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2009. Kindle.
 Aquinas, Pauline Commentaries (655).
 Gorman, 1566-1568.
 Scott W. Hahn, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Romans. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2017. Kindle.
 Pitre, 4415.
 Gorman, 1409-1411.