During the present, God uses sufferings to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). In anticipation of the future, God uses sufferings to prepare us for glory; indeed, He uses present sufferings to increase future glory. This exchange of suffering for glory is near the heart of Paul’s perspective on afflictions during this present life. We accept affliction now so that we can receive glory later. We will exchange the one for the other.
How perplexing! Christians are supposed to be children of God, heirs and joint heirs with Christ. We are no longer under condemnation—God’s wrath has been cancelled for all our sins. We have received unimaginable privileges in Christ. Yet we ache when we get up in the morning. We need glasses and antacids. We have to visit doctors and dentists. We even attend funerals—the last one of which is our own. How do we reconcile these experiences with what we have been told about who we are in Christ?
The eighth chapter of Romans probably has more to say about the subject of suffering than any other chapter in scripture. Paul tackles our problem head-on in verse 10: “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” Many find these words puzzling, but I think their meaning is rather straightforward. Even though we are Christians, our bodies are still mortal (dead), meaning that our bodies still die. The reason they die is because of sin (for death came into the world by sin, Rom 5:12). So on the one hand, we are no longer under condemnation (Rom 8:1). The Holy Spirit indwells us (Rom 8:9). Christ Himself lives in us (Rom 8:10). On the other hand, our bodies have not yet been delivered from the mortality that came through sin.
The indwelling Spirit provides the solution to this problem. The Spirit is life because of righteousness (which probably refers to the imputed righteousness of Christ).