Rejoice In Tribulations (Rom 5:3)

Should Romans 5:3 καυχώμεθα εν ταίς θλίψεσιν (rejoice/exult/boast in tribulations) be limited in scope to only specific type of tribulations—as in the afflictions that come about from sufferings caused directly by the believer’s profession of Christ as Lord? Some students in the class removed tribulations that come about from sinning because of καυχώμεθα addressing the tribulations; they similarly removed tribulations that come about from natural afflictions because no one should rejoice in having their legs cut off.

I don’t think this exegetical decision is viable.

The thrust of the passage seems to be that the θλίψεσιν (tribulation/affliction) isn’t empty; it yields results. That’s something that justified believers can now properly exult—not so much a happy rejoicing but a confidently joyful expectation, not because of our nature but the nature of God who does what He says. The exultation is then not only through the tribulations end goal but in the God who allows the tribulations, be it of accidents or chastisement of sin.

So for example, Joseph can exult that God meant for good what his brothers meant for evil; a tribulation which came through sin but was allowed, by God, to work an approved character which God knew it would bring about (Gen 50:20). David can exult that God will do rightly even as praying for mercy; tribulation which came through David’s sin, allowed by God, but wound up working an approved character just as God already knew (2 Sam 12:10-23).

We’re seeing the understanding of peace with the God who loved us made available by the eyes of faith (which doesn’t merit anything) reflected on our experience

This is one of the reasons I take this section as a culmination of the previous chapters (1-4). Paul similarly caps off the second section (Rom 5:12 – 8) with another excurses on the αγαπώσιν τoν θεoν (love of God) which remains inseparable from His people (Rom 8:26-39). The end goal is secured, God’s love is sure, therefore believers can be confident in the Now: knowing that even if they fall into sin and are chastised, God will ensure that they are made better; knowing that even if horrible catastrophe occurs, God will ensure that they are made better; and knowing that no matter what occurs, God will ensure that they are molded into the image of His beloved Son.

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8 replies on “Rejoice In Tribulations (Rom 5:3)”

Good thoughts, Rey. It can be hard to swallow in the reality of tribulation and suffering, but this is very important stuff. This reminds me of James 1:2-4 – ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’

I want to learn to count it as pure joy.

The afflictions we experience mirror Christ’s. It was an eye-opening night for me when I realized that this included his suffering for sin.

One of the lessons of the cross is that Jesus is always with us—because the cross transcends time, there is a sense in which even in our sin we are not cut off from God; Jesus is already there. When we find ourselves in sin, we are in a sense meeting Christ at the cross. That is not to say that we should sin so grace will abound (and I hope no one mistakes me on that subject), but it is part of the way we “suffer with him.”

So I guess you’d have to say I’m on your side on this one.

The urge to divide tribulations into deserved and undeserved categories goes way back. It makes for easy theodicizing, but I don’t think it works, biblically. Certainly, Job’s friends (and some of his expositors) are examples of this wrong thinking.

In your case, it seems that people are balking at the idea that someone should “rejoice in” or think that God would promise to “redeem” pain that was self-inflicted or the natural consequences of wrong-doing. I think that in Romans 8:28, “all things” means “all things” and the categorizing has the result of negating the word of God for the sake of fleshly moralizing.

Another way this is unworkable is that no one can be conclusively shown to be “innocent” in his suffering. It seems, Christianity encourages the perfectionistic part of he flesh so that everything must be put under a microscope until that “guilty” part is discovered (or, even if not, you must know that something is there) and don’t even think that God is going to help you or redeem this. He may, but you are still guilty, guilty, guilty.

Ultimately, the life of Faith is one of trust that God is at work despite appearances. The urge to “protect” God’s promises from “evil” use is a proclamation that in this part of life, God has let you go to your own devices. As much as we like the thought of letting the sinning brother have it, this is a movement and an encouragement to unfaith.

Tribulations because of sin are consequences. But they are not punishments. The Lord has already received the punishment. So it must be useful for our sanctification. All joy.

I think, Michael, that the context would show that we are not to suffer punishment from authority for doing evil, but rather for doing good.

This is a little different in some respects, I think, than what Rey is talking about here. While no one would argue that we should sin that good may come, it is nonetheless also true that God works all things—including sin—for our good.

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