The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. what does it mean by the above ‘ share in his sufferings”?
You are quoting Romans 8:16-17. A parallel passage is Colossians 1:24. “Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, fo rthe sake of his body, which is the church.” These are, admittedly, hard passages to understand. In both cases it seems that our own suffering is a condition of our relationship with God and our salvation. I believe that is not precisely what is being said. What God is telling us is that when we, as followers of Jesus, suffer for being a Christian, we come to understand Jesus more than we otherwise would. There is a sense in which our closeness to God is made complete when we can relate to Jesus in his suffering. Those who suffer of the sake of Christ are made more like Jesus and become closer than God. To some extent, all who are Christians suffer for the name of Jesus. Paul is assuming that it the case with his readers. In fact, Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12, “All those who seek to live a righteous life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It is not that we, as disciples of Jesus, should seek out ways to suffer, but we should be willing to suffer for the name of Jesus. In fact, if we live out the life of righteousness, we will suffer. Do not try to avoid suffering, but embrace it as in this you will become more like Jesus and you will be closer to God. Indeed, it may well help you to remain faithful to the end and to heaven.
John Oakes, PhD